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Column: Seminole Tribe no longer struggling

"Anyone growing up in south Broward County in the 1960s and early '70s would have found it impossible to miss the Seminole chickee just north of Stirling Road on U.S. 441.

That thatched hut on 441 was the most visible part of a kitschy Seminole tourist attraction that, to be honest, was pretty pathetic.

I went only a couple of times, mainly to watch alligator wrestling, but was left with an abiding sense of pity. It was obvious that the Seminoles were struggling to just get by.

With that childhood image still vivid, I still find it astounding that today's 3,300-member Seminole Tribe of Florida has turned itself into a hugely successful corporate juggernaut.

Its most recent achievement: the $965 million acquisition of the Hard Rock Cafe restaurant and casino chain. According to the Associated Press, the deal includes 124 Hard Rock Cafes, four Hard Rock Hotels, two Hard Rock Casino Hotels, two Hard Rock Live! venues and three unbranded hotels.

The Seminoles - who enjoy tax-free status - didn't go from nothing to the elite ranks of big business overnight, to be sure. The tribe's economic prosperity has been more than 30 years in the making, starting with the opening of its first "smoke shop" in Broward in 1977 and its first high-stakes bingo hall in Hollywood, where my family lived and where the tribe is headquartered - near the site of that old chickee on 441."

Get the Story:
Bill Berlow: Not your daddy's Seminole Tribe (The Tallahassee Democrat 1/12)

Relevant Links:
Seminole Tribe -

Related Stories:
Seminole Tribe wins approval to buy Hard Rock (1/9)
Seminole Tribe displays rare portrait of chief (08/18)
Seminole Tribe acquires 232-year-old letter to leader (06/05)
Seminole Tribe keeps history alive with new museum (05/18)
Seminole Tribe readies for opening of museum (11/23)
Column: Death of Seminole leader a loss to all (05/27)
Obituary: Cypress, founder of Seminole museum (04/15)