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Florida Dice

Craps and roulette at the Seminole casinos.

Florida Dice

Every time I’ve ever been gambling in Florida—and it’s more times than you would imagine from an Atlantic City/Delaware guy like myself—a scene has repeated itself on the casino floor of a Seminole casino, if only because I’ve forgotten about the previous visit:

Me: “Excuse me, but where’s the craps table?”

Seminole employee: “We don’t have craps. We’re not allowed to have dice.”

“You’re… not allowed to have dice? Why? Did someone put dice in their mouth and choke?”

“No, we can’t have dice because of our compact.”

“What, you mean like a makeup compact?

“No, our compact with the state.”

OK, I made up the part about makeup. But I realized that the Seminole casinos, some of the most fun places I’ve been, weren’t allowed to offer dice games. So they couldn’t have craps, or sic-bo either. Or, presumably, chuck-a-luck. (Also known as birdcage, or sweat rag. You could look it up.)

Anyway, the first time I was told “No dice for you!” in Florida, I thought it was strange, but I moved on to other games: Blackjack, where I invariably lose in a most infuriating fashion. Three Card Poker, which my younger son loves, but which has always been a train wreck for me. Then there was Texas Hold’em poker, which my older son swears by, but which, if I’m being honest, leaves me a bewildered, frustrated old man who has just gone through his gambling stake much earlier than anticipated.

So, I go to video poker, which is pretty good at Seminole Hard Rock Tampa. On the slot floor, despite the wonderful games I always write about, the reality is a house edge of 10-12 percent. I play slots with money I won playing video poker.

I know. How about roulette? I see people having fun gathered around that wheel, and imagine the croupier sending that ball around to stop on 22 Black, like Rick told the kid to bet on the rigged wheel in Casablanca.

“Excuse me, where’s the roulette table?”

“I’m sorry, we’re not allowed to have roulette wheels.”

“Why, did you break one?”

“No, it’s our compact.“

Well, that was then. This is now.

Last month, the Seminoles began operating on their new compact, which grants them the authority to offer both craps and roulette. (Not sure about chuck-a-luck.) At the Seminole Casino Hotel in Immokalee, the ghost of Steve Lawrence surely was present when former NFL coach Jimmy Johnson, accompanied by Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr., threw the first roll of the dice at the casino’s new craps table.

(I know, wise guy. Steve Lawrence is still alive. But his ghost is in Florida.)

Jimmy Johnson, of course, is the legendary two-time Super Bowl-winning Dallas Cowboys coach, and one of the Fox football analysts charged with taming Terry Bradshaw, who, let’s face it, has pretty much become a cartoon.

(I say that as a lifelong Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Terry, it’s time to retire to that ranch.)

But there was Jimmy, grinning underneath that perfect silver coiffure, right next to Chairman Osceola as he rolled ‘dem bones. It made for a great picture, one that almost eliminated the gag reflex I experience when anything related to the Dallas Cowboys comes into my field of vision.

(Almost.)

It occurred to me that some of our younger readers may not understand the Steve Lawrence reference. For you twentysomethings, Lawrence is a classic crooner, a very cool Sinatra-esque singer who originally teamed with his wife Eydie Gormé, another remarkable talent. There’s a famous news photo of Lawrence, flanked by then-New Jersey Governor Brendan Byrne and casino president Jack Davis, a second after he released the first legal roll of the dice in New Jersey at Resorts International on May 26, 1978.

Of course, he didn’t have Jimmy Johnson. But I thought of that photo when I saw the grinning coach at the Seminole casino.

So now, the next time I’m at a Seminole casino in Florida, I’ll be able to play my absolute favorite casino game, craps.

Well, providing there’s a minimum bet that’s not insane. I play at the South Point in Las Vegas, always at the $10 table. With a $10 minimum and double odds, I can maintain my ability to play within my means on most rolls. While craps is still brand-new for them, I can’t imagine the Seminole Hard Rock casinos will have $10 tables.

If they’re like Atlantic City now—$15 if you’re lucky, $25 mostly—I still won’t be able to play craps in Florida.

Maybe I’ll get lucky at Three Card Poker.

Or even better, chuck-a-luck.

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.  

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