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Magic City Casino gets OK to add jai alai, end dog racing

Correspondent

Magic City Casino (450 NW 37th Ave., Miami, 305-649-3000, MagicCityCasino.com) recently received state regulators’ permission to replace its greyhound racing with jai alai. State law says casinos in Miami-Dade and Broward counties can operate only where a pari-mutuel exists (except for casinos on Indian reservations, which are regulated differently).

Flagler Dog Track at Magic City Casino was founded in 1931. But in recent decades, attendance has dwindled. Jai alai at the Casino at Dania Beach (301 E. Dania Beach Blvd., 954-920-1511, CasinoDaniaBeach.com) and Casino Miami (3500 N.W. 37th Ave., 305-633-6400, CasinoMiamiJaiAlai.com) has also dropped in popularity since its glory days in the 1970s and 1980s. But a fronton takes up far less space than a dog track.

Getting permission to close the track took a few years, says Scott Savin, who is COO at Magic City Casino and CEO at the Casino at Dania Beach.

According to Savin, regulators finally said, “You can switch from dog racing to jai alai as long as you play 150 jai alai performances a year.” He defines a performance as one day.

“So we can drop one pari-mutuel activity for the other.”

But the change is not certain.

“Our dog racing is still to October, then we race dogs again in June of 2018,” Savin says. “So we have plenty of time to investigate the switch to jai alai, which would happen in the middle of 2018. We’re looking into what kind of fronton we would have here.”

One possibility is building it at Stage 305, where Magic City hosts live performances.

“We’re looking into playing jai alai and hosting concerts and special events in 305,” he says. “We’re engaging engineers to look into it.”

Savin says the new fronton would be more intimate and theatrical for fans.

“We’re talking about glass walls as opposed to solid granite walls [on three sides],” he says. “No one’s been able to stand in front or behind jai alai walls in the past. Spectators will get a perspective that they never had before.”

As for the dog track, Savin envisions the land being used for other forms of entertainment. Stage 305 is relatively small.

“Right now, we’re constricted because we can’t bring in some of the bigger acts,” he says

GO, FISH

There’s still time to sign up for the Aug. 7 Jeff Conine Celebrity Poker Classic at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino (1 Seminole Way, Hollywood, 800-937-0010, SeminoleHardRockHollywood.com). Hosted by the retired Marlins player, all proceeds will go to the nonprofit Conine Clubhouse at the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood.

Conine will play. So far, other celebrities planning to appear are New York Giants player Mathias Kiwanuka and the Florida Panthers’ Shawn Thornton, Bill Lindsay and Randy Moller, says Stu Opperman, spokesman for the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Foundation. ESPN’s Dave LaMont will emcee.

WE HAVE A WINNER

On Monday, Daryl Jace won $142,173 in the Main Event of the Florida State Poker Championship at Isle Casino Pompano Park (777 Isle of Capri Circle, Pompano Beach, 954-972-2000, TheIslePompanoPark.com). The Massachusetts resident defeated 537 entrants. Runner-up was Boca Raton’s Sam Mayer-Backer, who walked with $99,666.

david@davidraterman.com

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