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New casino, hotel breaks ground in Brighton

Shovels are raised at the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the new Seminole Casino Hotel Brighton on Jan. 5. From left to right are Seminole Gaming CEO and Hard Rock International Chairman Jim Allen, Brighton Councilman Larry Howard, President Mitchell Cypress, Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr., Seminole Casino Brighton General Manager Marty Johns, Big Cypress Councilwoman Mariann Billie, Hollywood Councilman Chris Osceola and Seminole Gaming COO David Hoenemeyer. (Beverly Bidney)

BRIGHTON — A new casino and hotel on the Brighton Reservation took its first step to fruition Jan. 5 with a groundbreaking ceremony. The new Seminole Casino Hotel Brighton will be located at 15005 Reservation Road, a 75-acre site with a 10-acre lake and parking for 1,000 vehicles. It is scheduled to open in 2024.

“It’s been a long time coming for our Brighton Reservation,” Brighton Councilman Larry Howard said. “We started with nothing, just a small herd of cows. Today is a great day for our tribe, we will be able to bring more people in from all over to stay at this resort out here and enjoy themselves.”

The event on the site of the future Seminole Casino Hotel Brighton – a few miles south of the current casino – attracted hundreds of people from the community and surrounding areas. The standing room only crowd gathered under a large white tent where elected officials from Moore Haven, Okeechobee and Glades County rubbed elbows with officials from the Seminole Tribe and Seminole Gaming. The Tribal Council entered the tent to a live performance of “Seminole Wind.”

The ceremony began with the First Indian Baptist Church choir singing hymns in Creek. The colors were presented by the Seminole Honor Guard and students from Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School recited the Pledge of Allegiance in Creek and English.

The new development should take about 18 months to build and is expected to replace the existing casino sometime in 2024. No plans have been announced about the future of the existing casino building, which opened in 1980.

The new casino-hotel will feature a nearly 38,000-square-foot casino, 623 slot machines and 18 tables for blackjack, baccarat and other house-banked card games. Included in the total number of slot machines will be 101 in a smoke-free gaming space and a high-limit area with 42 slot machines and four table games.

Marty Johns has been general manager of the Seminole Brighton Casino since the 1980s. The original casino opened in 1980 in a small red barn. Johns helped his father Josiah Johns, who created the Brighton casino when he added bingo tables to the barn, and learned the bingo business from him. Josiah Johns died in 1983. About year later, Marty Johns became general manager and found out he was good at the job.

“I learned a lot about customer service and marketing,” Johns said. “We didn’t have much in our tool kit then, but we have that now thanks to Jim Allen, (CEO of Seminole Gaming and chairman of Hard Rock International). “We’ve gone from a small red barn to a 30,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility. It’s been an amazing ride.”

“Our most successful casino worldwide is the Brighton casino, on a percentage basis,” Allen said. “We made over $50 million in profit here last year. It’s a great job done with Marty’s leadership. I’m fortunate to work with Marty and I’m proud of him.”

Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr. remembered the red barn casino.

“We outgrew it,” Chairman Osceola said. “This tribe has outgrown a lot and we will continue to grow. The revenue we generate from the casinos helps us grow and helps us in many ways because we are blessed by God above. It’s a great day and it will be a great tomorrow. Each day we get to see is a blessing.”

The hotel – a first for the reservation – will feature 100 guest rooms. It will be the fourth Seminole casino to offer lodging. The others are the Seminole Casino Hotel Immokalee, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood and the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa.

The pool area will have a 1,500-square-foot pool with a built-in sun shelf, a 12,500-square-foot deck with space for 76 chaise lounges, 40 chairs and two cabanas. Dining options will include a 24-hour restaurant, a steak house and a fast service and carryout cafe. The property will feature an indoor event space, which can be configured for banquets or bingo with 400 seats or for performances with 900 seats.

An eight-lane bowling alley – a first for any Seminole Gaming property – will include 32 seats for dining or events. An additional outdoor entertainment venue and stage will accommodate 3,000 guests for concerts, comedy shows and other performances.

“I saw Hollywood and Immokalee get casinos and now it’s Brighton’s turn. This will create a lot of opportunity for our young people,” said Hollywood Councilman Chris Osceola. “The TCD (Tribal Career Development for tribal members) program will be right here in your own backyard. Learn this; this is your business.”

A rendering of the exterior of the new Seminole Hotel Casino Brighton. (Courtesy image)
From left to right, President Mitchell Cypress, Seminole Gaming CEO and Hard Rock International Chairman Jim Allen and Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr. at the groundbreaking ceremony. (Beverly Bidney)
A rendering of the pool for the new Seminole Hotel Casino Brighton. (Courtesy image)
From left to right, Rita Youngman, Connie Whidden and Mabel Tichenor chat at the groundbreaking event. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
From left to right, Hollywood Councilman Chris Osceola, Brighton Councilman Larry Howard, Seminole Gaming CEO and Hard Rock International Chairman Jim Allen and Seminole Casino Brighton general manager Marty Johns. (Beverly Bidney)
The First Indian Baptist Church choir sings at the start of the groundbreaking event. (Beverly Bidney)
A rendering of the interior of the new Seminole Hotel Casino Brighton. (Courtesy image)
Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at