Games of Chance

Horse Racing

Although Florida is home to nearly all breeds of horses, Thoroughbreds outnumber all the others. In fact, Ocala, located in North Central Florida, breeds an impressive 3,500 to 5,000 Thoroughbred race horses each year. Of course, that is only about 10 percent of the nation’s total, but enough for Ocala to bill itself as the Horse Capital of the World.

Unless you follow the Thoroughbred horse racing industry closely, many are not aware that Florida also boasts Thoroughbred horse racing tracks — Calder Race Course, Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs. In fact, Calder Race Course kicks off the road to the Kentucky Derby on January 1 with the first derby of the year — Gr-III Tropical Park Derby. Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs also pave the Road to the Roses with graded stakes over the first few months of every year.

I can remember my first day at the now 80-year-old Tampa Bay Downs like it was yesterday, but it was actually a lifetime ago. Through a series of remarkable events, this former church secretary found herself editing a small horse racing digest — Wire to Wire, a local Ocala publication that covered the Thoroughbred racing industry and provided daily track results from all over the country. My trip to Tampa Bay Downs was sponsored by my boss, the owner of the publication. The day trip was intended to not only give me some hands-on experience in the industry, but provide a day of entertainment. It effectively did both.

Setting in the club house overlooking the race course, we could see the horses entering the track for the post parade to the starting gate. As the horses pranced, I glanced nervously at the Daily Racing Form in my hand. It wasn’t the first time I had held one, but it would be the first time I would use the information it provides to place a wager — my very first bet. Later, I clutched my ticket as the bell rang and the starting gate sprung open. I couldn’t help but get caught up in the excitement and I cheered my horse all the way to the wire. Amazingly, my horse won! It had to be beginners luck, but, win or lose, the day was an experience I’ll never forget.

So, if you want to get on track for an unforgettable experience, my suggestion for a sure bet would be to spend the day, or a part of the day, at a race track. And, in case you are wondering, the tracks are family-friendly and can even be educational for the kids.


If you want to take a chance on something really different to do in Florida, try the odds on favorite of many Floridians – casino gambling. You didn’t know Florida has casinos? You’re not alone.

A legal battle waged by the Seminoles in Florida and then California that cleared the way for gaming on Indian reservations set the stage. TheSeminole Indians opened their first high-stakes gambling establishment in December, 1979. Today, they have four casinos in different locations throughout West Central and South Florida. Their close kin, the Miccosukee Indians, have operated a casino in Miami for a decade.

If you wish to plan your vacation around gaming, each Seminole location offers packages which include accommodations, meals, bingo sessions, and rebates for video gaming machines. The Miccosukee’s operate a casino out of their own resort-style hotel and also offer package vacations.

Coconut Creek

The Seminole Tribe’s Coconut Creek Casino offers over 800 electronic gaming machines, lightning bingo, a poker room and a cafe and bar area. Located on almost five acres of tribal land in Coconut Creek, the casino will be entering Phases II of development within the next two years, adding 100,000 sq. ft. of additional space for gaming, restaurants and expanded parking. For further information, call 866-2-CASINO.


The Seminole Casino Hollywood facility was the first high-stakes operation open in the country. In 1991, Hollywood became a 24-hour gaming facility and has been increased in size to accommodate the increasing number of patrons. There you choose from round-the-clock Poker on 48 tables featuring progressive royal jackpots; daily mini-tournaments in 7 Card Stud; Texas Hold’em and Omaha Hi-lo; Lightning Bingo (where you can make a fortune in minutes) and, much more. The 12-story Mediterranean-style Hard Rock Hotel tower has 500 spacious guest rooms, including 63 suites with panoramic views.

Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood is located at 4150 North SR 7 in Hollywood. Take I-95 to Stirling Road and go west to State Road 7. Call 866-2-CASINO for further information.


Miccosukee Resort & Gaming

Miccosukee gaming provides a thrill-a-minute action within the confines of a 302-room resort-type hotel that also contains a restaurant and lounge and features live big-name entertainment. The 24-hour gaming operation includes more than 1,000 video pull-tab machines, 58 poker tables and high-stakes bingo.

Miccosukee Resort and Gaming is located at 500 S.W. 177th Avenue in Miami. Its Miami location places it in a position to compete with some of South Florida’s.


If you are a casino enthusiast, you don’t have to go all the way to Vegas. Set sail from a Florida port, and discover a casino cruise where you can play your favorite games while you sail the seas. Discover what Floridians already know… float away for a day, leave your cares behind, and come back refreshed – you might even come back with a little more cash. Now that’s a winning combination!

There are many choices when considering a casino cruise. Ports are located throughout Florida, so no matter where you live or are visiting, there is one close-by, and many times, free transportation is provided.

Sterling Casino Lines

Unfortunately, Sterling Casino Lines cruises has suspended operations at Port Canaveral. They are looking into sailing from a different Florida port.

Casino Princesa

The elegant surroundings of Miami’s Bayside Marketplace carry onto the mega yacht turned premier ship. With approximately 10,000 square feet of gaming, Casino Princesa offers over two hundred slot machines, and 32 tables to create an extraordinary gaming experience. Choose from Blackjack, Roulette, Craps, Poker, Baccarat or slots. Guests will enjoy the opulent surroundings, fine food, and entertainment.

Casino Princesa sails twice daily from Bayfront Park, adjacent to Bayside Marketplace, in Miami at 12:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.. The cost for the cruise is just $5.95. Valet parking is available. Garage or off-street parking charges are nominal. Call 305-379-4422 for more information.


Unfortunately, SeaEscape is no longer sailing from Port Everglades. They have ceased operations.

Palm Beach Princess Casino

One of Florida’s most luxurious cruise ships boasts a 15,000 square feet casino featuring Blackjack, Poker, Roulette, Craps and plenty of slot machines. Live entertainment, cabaret shows, a dance club, and sports bar fill the seven decks with continuous fun.Palm Beach Princess Casino sails from the new port of Palm Beach offering cruises twice a day — 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.. The cost is either $30 or $40, depending on the day and time of the cruise. Reservations are not required unless you wish to take advantage of their complimentary bus. Guests must be 21.

Treasure Island Casino

The Treasure Island Casino Cruise has suspended operations at John’s Pass until further notice.

Greyhound Racing

Going to the dogs” has been a Florida tradition for as far back as I can remember (my dad went when I was a kid). Chances are when someone says they’re “going to the dogs,” it may conjure up an image of smoke-filled rooms and shifty-looking characters with cigars hanging out of their mouths, but the sport has shaken off its dusty old image. Today, “a night at the dogs” provides an enjoyable evening’s entertainment to a new kind of clientele that enjoy plush restaurants, corporate entertainment facilities featuring private boxes and clean, well run bars.

Greyhounds have been around for thousands of years. They were bred to hunt by outrunning their prey. They were not intended to be solitary hunters, but to work with other dogs. Greyhounds can reach 45 mph when they run, hitting top speed within 30 feet and averaging 30 mph for distances up to one mile, so racing has kept that aspect of their inbred personality intact. Greyhounds bound out of a starting gate and run after a mechanized rabbit. The first dog over the finish line wins. It’s that simple, but if you’ve never been to a Greyhound racing facility, placing a bet might be intimidating. It doesn’t have to be. Placing a bet is really very easy. Just remember these easy hints and steps:

  • Learn the racing basics. How to read the program, how to read your ticket, ticket abbreviations and more.
  • Learn the wagering lingo. Knowing exactly what a Quinella, an Exacta or a Trifecta is will increase your odds of wagering successfully.
  • Some Greyhound tracks have added poker rooms to their clubhouses and most offer simulcasting which allows you to wager on races at other tracks. (By the way, simulcasts are not limited to other dog track racing. Depending on the season, you may be able to wager on horse racing, Jai-Alai and harness racing.)
  • Before you go to the window, write down your selections and the amount you want to bet. Have your money in hand.
  • Tell the clerk which track you desire to bet.
  • Tell the clerk the race number you desire to bet.
  • Tell the clerk the dollar amount and type of bet.
  • Tell the clerk the blanket numbers you desire to bet.
  • Always check your ticket(s) before leaving the teller window to make sure the track, bet, race number and blanket selections are correct. Tickets cannot be changed or canceled after leaving the teller window.
  • Flagler Greyhound Track, Miami (Near Miami International Airport)
  • Hollywood Greyhound Track, Hollywood


Remember that the track wants you to have fun and win lots of money. If you have any questions, be sure to ask – staff members are always willing to help.Florida Greyhound track locations:


Calder Casino and Race Course

Coconut Creek Casino

Dania Jai-Alai

Gulfstream Park

Hialeah Park and Race Course

Magic City Casino

Mardi Gras Casino

Miccosukee Resort and Gaming

Seminole Hardrock Hotel and Casino

The Isle Casino

Casino Cruises

Palm Beach Princess Casino

Casino Princesa

Race Courses

Calder Casino and Race Course

Hialeah Park and Race Course

Magic City Casino