Dania Jai-alai is all set for the grand RE-opening of jai-alai this Thursday night at 7pm. The 69-year-old fronton was all thought to be dead about a year ago when about 800 fans packed the building for what was a farewell to Dania Jai-alai (and for all intent purposes the end of full court, goat-skinned pelota after a 98-year run in the USA).
The season will run for two months in a tournament style with lots of new, young players on the 22-man roster. The new players are here in the USA and practicing – as you see view in the video we have posted here.
Some more good news – the two Dave’s – longtime veteran announcer “Big” Dave Lemmon and ESPN’s Dave LaMont (shown in the photo along with player manager Benny Bueno last year) will be returning to the booth to cover much of the action. However, “Big Dave” will be handling Sunday’s matinee action.
We will be anticipating the new video system in place, already witnessed in a couple of scenes from their slick roster introduction scene and the “Benny interviewing Benny” clip.
A grand reopening ceremony is planned for Thursday night.
The Pelota Press is a sponsor of this seasonal return of Dania jai-alai and will be onsite for the first few performances with plenty of coverage information coming up by the end of the weekend.
Try to help support Dania jai-alai for this two short two-month return. Positive handle and crowd numbers will go a long way if there is more Dania jai-alai to come after this.
The second annual International Loren Harris Jai-alai Tournament will be held at the Fronton Salas February 3-5 in Cancun, Mexico.
Under the direction of Maestro Alejandro Diaz Perez, all amateur and professional pelotaris are invited to participate in this huge event. The unfortunate loss of Loren Harris was devastating and still hard to imagine.
The hosts welcome individual players and groups of players for the event.
There will be a $25 entry fee. Singles, Doubles and Team Competition available based on the number of participants.
Please make every effort to attend the event or play in it. Cancun is a great place to have fun and the Salas brothers make it even better. But the focus is to remember the tragic loss of Loren Harris.
Their new fronton is awesome, and the action will be a blast.
In order to get a vote on an amendment to the Florida Constitution, you need to gather well over a half-million signatures of Florida voters. This was accomplished during the first part of 2004. Then, there were challenges to the legitimacy of the signatures, a challenge to the wording of the amendment. Amendment 4 was approved by the Florida Supreme Court and would be on the March 2005, special election.
Some of the opponents to the so-called “expansion of gambling in Florida” were out in the open and making their objections known. The Disney Corporation began pouring money into opposing Amendment 4. Some South Florida local businessmen, such as auto magnate Norman Braman, became the voice of the opposition. Their reasoning seemed to be that Florida didn’t need any more options to draw tourists. The problem was, many tourists were now stopping at Disney World, not traveling past it. South Florida tourism was declining.
Though Amendment 4 was a vote by the people of Florida, we still needed political support in Tallahassee from our legislators and our governor. The amendment would lay out the framework of allowing slot machines only in Dade and Broward counties. It would dictate that the state taxes would go to supplement the education budget statewide. But our state government would have final say on regulation and degree of the taxation.
Our governor at that time was Jeb Bush. The republicans and Bush pretty much controlled the state, as they do today. But most republicans are very pro-business. Pari-mutuel wagering was one of the largest industries in the state, employing a huge number of Floridians, and generating a major amount of tax dollars. They knew our plight and most definitely didn’t want to see the industry go under. Notice I use the word “most.”
While having no moral issues taking large contributions from horse tracks, dog tracks, and Jai-Alai owners, Governor Bush said publicly that he was “morally” opposed to gambling. He made it known that he was not going to support this amendment even if our survival depended on it.
So, the best we could hope for was that he basically stayed silent on the issue. We were hopeful that he didn’t campaign against it and would let the Florida voters make their own decisions.
Many pari-mutuel owners, who had supported Bush and his past campaigns, met with him. Employees and customers were urged to contact him and ask for his support. We knew his voice could sway many of the voters and sink our efforts. And then he spoke: “Florida stands at the cusp,” Bush said. “The true costs are significant and real: long-term decay of our traditional industries and the social fabric of our communities.” Jeb Bush fired the first, big shot. The true battle was on.
One of our pro-slots advocates was former state Education Commissioner Jim Horne. He tried to counter Bush’s arguments by saying that gambling is already here and has been in the state. Gambling on the reservations and the cruise ships to “no-where” are largely untaxed, unregulated. Horne touted that this would be a windfall for all of Florida’s 67 school districts. “We’re simply talking about capturing existing revenue and putting it to good use– toward education,” he went on to say.
There were so many conflicting groups supporting and opposing Amendment 4. The Florida PTA staunchly opposed the referendum. The state’s largest teacher union, the FEA, supported it. The mayors of Miami-Dade and Broward counties lined up against the measure, but many of their commissioners supported it.
There were so many rumors about Las Vegas companies making secret deals with some of the tracks and frontons. Some provided funds to help pass the amendment linked to offers of partnerships or complete buyouts. Of course, Las Vegas was interested. They have always been interested in Florida. If casino gambling could flourish in the desert, just think what it would do with sunshine and beaches.
Meanwhile, Steve Snyder, my boss and owner was supporting the issue, but was mysteriously silent on what he would do if it passed. His investment, Dania Jai-Alai, was now losing money, no matter what we tried. He knew slots would be lucrative and save us. But would he secretly ink an agreement with another gambling company or hang on to this lucrative property and run his own casino/Jai-Alai facility? Steve was a good poker player and at our daily lunches, he would not reveal his hand to us. At least, not to me.
The Jai-Alai players continued with their “SOS” (Save Our Sport) campaign. They had contacts with the many Latino leaders in South Florida that didn’t want to see the sport die out. Most supported the SOS movement. But would it be enough?
As the March 2005, vote approached, the battle got very serious. Governor Bush and some of the legislative leaders announced they would hold a “No Casinos” rally in Ft. Lauderdale. Bush would be there in person to speak against the measure.
We countered by planning our own pro-Amendment 4 rally outside, hoping to show them the large support for passage. The players would be there with Save Our Sport signs. This was, indeed, a big showdown between the two sides, hoping to sway the predicted close vote.
Snyder, of course, encouraged all the Dania employees, including management, to go there and support the cause. I went. Standing outside downtown Ft. Lauderdale Hall where their rally was to take place, I was impressed with the turnout of our supporters. The players were there enthusiastically chanting the SOS slogans. Then, the political entourage arrived.
Now, realize that I was mostly apolitical throughout my life. As most young people, I was thinking only of… well, what most young people think about. Then, I got married and was busy raising a family. But, during my Jai-Alai career, I saw how the politicians used the pari-mutuels. We were always promised things by both parties, (tax relief, deregulation, etc.) only to have them jerked away at the end of the legislative sessions. Over the years, I have seen our companies contribute to campaigns and pay huge sums to lobbyists, hoping they would be sympathetic and pass some bills to help us. Yet, those same politicians, always promising to help, were now prepared to let us go under.
My career now depended on a single amendment, a single vote by the people of Florida. And this group of politicians were now entering a hall trying to make sure my love, my livelihood, came to an end. So, I decided to enter that hall. What I saw was incredible. But what I heard was unbelievable!
There was $100,000 on the line at the 2022 Battle Court Finals for players and charities and a great show was put on for all with national coverage on ESPN3! WOW!! Only at the Magic City Fronton where they are “keepin’ the Jai-Alive.”
The Rebote Renegades each won $4,000 per player for the squad. The winning Rebote Renegade squad members are Goixerri, Aratz, RonRon, Correa, Ben and CRB. The Cesta Cyclones each won $1,000 per player for 2nd place. The Cyclone squad members are Manu, Manny, Carballo, Ikeda, Jeden and Williams.
Three awards were presented to players before the BC competition began on Friday night. The recipients each received an Apple product. Here are the awards and recipients:
Coaches Award: Roque
Most Improved: Williams
Sportsmanship Award: RonRon
Battle Court Matches return in February 2023 with a Draft in January….STAY TUNED!!
As first reported on the Say Hi Li site, the Magic City Casino is getting sold.
Rumors of a sale of the valuable casino have been floating around for several months but was recently confirmed by Stu Neiman.
“While a change in the ownership of Magic City Casino may be taking place, there will be no change in the ownership of Magic City Jai-alai. The same ownership group which founded the program in 2018 will continue to operate the program with expansion in 2023.
That’s great news!
While rumors of the potential sale turned out to be correct, the immediate demise of jai-alai will not happen. There will be a 6th season, and as previously reported, a longer season with an increased roster.
Scott “The Savior” Savin will be heavily involved in the Magic City jai-alai operations, but his status as for the casino operations is unknown.
Magic City Casino is now the busiest casino of the pari-mutuels that include Gulfstream, Big Easy (Mardi Gras), the Isle in Pompano, Calder, Miami, Hialeah Park, and Dania based on the past couple of reporting months.
They were the only racino reach ten figures with a reported slots net revenue in July 2022 of $10,635,062. For years, The Isle in Pompano had been the leader, but revenue as sagged a bit since the pandemic and hasn’t quite fully caught backup yet.
Magic City just completed its 5th season this past weekend and will be opening earlier than before – next February with the season length getting expended to mid-December. However, they will close the month of August to hold the USNJAC and the Word Super Cup tournaments.
With Dania jai-alai making a surprising reopening in just a matter of days away, management and fans are optimistic that the 69-year-old Dania fronton can make a comeback.
The season will be in a tournament form and operating during the months of December and January. Parimutuel wagering will be available for all performances.
The players will be reporting this weekend, mostly young kids as young as 18 years old from the Basque region. About 6 players from the original roster will be back along with 16 new players.
One big note is that there will be a significant improvement to their old “1980s” broadcasting equipment. We have already witnessed new video production of the new roster and a spot where Benny interviews Benny, seen on our site and Dania’s YouTube Channel.
There will be a lot of photo and video shoots taken and available on their social media sites when the players arrive.
Thursday, December 1st 7PM. A special “Merry Festival” with an opening ceremony in the works.
The Pelota Press will be there the first few days covering the event.
This week we had an election. In Florida, there were three amendments on the ballot. None of them passed. It is very difficult to get voters to approve constitutional amendments in our state. It is virtually impossible to get any gambling amendment passed.
Florida voters overwhelmingly turned down casino-type gambling in 1978, 1986, and 1994. Proponents had high hopes for passage. Millions of dollars were poured into those campaigns only to see them fall short. The pari-mutuels (horses, dogs, and Jai-Alai) were against these casino gambling proposals since it would mean serious competition for the gaming dollar.
Now, it is 2004. The Seminole and Miccosukee tribes have beautiful casino-like facilities filled with VLTs (video lottery terminals), that mimic slot machines. There are “cruise ships to nowhere” operating throughout the state that open their gambling tables in international waters. And, the state of Florida is in the gambling business offering a variety of lottery games including the high-paying Lotto. And, our business is crumbling.
Then, we hear about a movement spearheaded by the owners of some dog and horse track owners. Having spent years trying to get help from the Florida Legislature, they think it is time for another constitutional amendment. But, this one is unique… a gambling amendment that only affects South Florida, yet benefits the rest of the counties in the state. An amendment that brings millions of dollars to education.
Well, Floridians have heard that song before. The Florida Lottery promised all this money for education. Yes, they did contribute to our education budget. But, the slick politicians in Tallahassee deducted money from that budget knowing they were getting lottery money. The net sum was basically zero. There was no extra money for schools and teachers. They just did the “bait and switch” routine, as politicians often do.
“This amendment will have language that makes sure proceeds from the slot machines will SUPPLEMENT the state education budget and cannot be used as replacement money,” we were told. “Slots would only be allowed in the existing pari-mutuel facilities in Dade and Broward counties, nowhere else in the state,” they said, dispelling the expansion of gambling theory. “Plus, if passed, there will be another vote by the county commissions of those two counties which could veto the slots in their county.”
Why would this have a chance of working? Florida is really two states and probably should be named like the Carolinas or Dakotas. There is the very conservative North Florida, which is the panhandle through Jacksonville. Almost everything from the I-4 corridor north has been against expansion of gambling, spearheaded by the Disney corporation. But, North Florida has some of the poorest, financially needy schools.
Then, you have Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties, which is South Florida. Many in North Florida view those in the south as “heathens” with the fast pace and the South Beach night life. Is there a way to construct this amendment where the so-called “evil” of gambling is limited to South Florida, yet the financial windfall is shared with the schools of North Florida?
Of course, this requires a lot to fall into place. First, you need the financial support of all the track and fronton owners. You have to finance a signature drive in order to get the amendment on the ballot. There needs to be a tremendous state-wide advertising campaign explaining the benefits to education throughout the state and the limitations of the amendment. Finally, you will have to attract and mobilize allies, like the Teacher’s Union, other education associations, local Chambers of Commerce, and the local communities.
The hardest part will be to combat those opposed to it. They will say it is a huge expansion of gambling, that Florida doesn’t need it, even though educational funds are always short. Some politicians will fight it vehemently, using morality as their argument. Disney will pour money in against the campaign. It could be a blood bath. Or could it actually succeed?
Steve Snyder met with the other owners to explore the concept and discuss our possible participation. He was cautious and not about to commit funds without knowing the odds of success. Meetings were held with our Jai-Alai players, explaining that while slot machines had nothing to do with the sport, the financial benefits could actually save it. We needed the players support.
The players had their own meetings. They, too, came to the realization that without another viable product, the companies could not continue to operate. The Jai-Alai players decided that this indeed was an “SOS” moment. They would begin their “Save Our Sport” (SOS) campaign, knowing that this could, indeed, be the last hope for the survival of Jai-Alai in the United States.
If there were any kind of a Board of Directors table for the sport of jai-alai, there is certainly one name that that would be sitting up there in the front of it. That would be Francisco Eloririaga, better known as to most fans as “Elorri”. On Saturday morning, Elorri made his debut at America’s first public cancha in St. Petersburg.
As part of the “Orlando Invasion” lead by long time pro player Rastock, Elorri showed up at Puryear Park in a three-car caravan to the surprise of about ten regulars for a regular Saturday session. Looking healthy, tanned, and relaxed, the 82-year was a fixture at Orlando Jai-alai. As a former player from day 1 in 1962 to all the way to 2013 as player manager, Elorri was beloved by everyone.
He can still throw the ball around – 60 years after playing he started playing pro!
Battle Court Jai-Alai matches and Pelota game performances (aka pari-mutuel wagering events) are set for 2023 and here is the scoop per Stu Neiman on 02-November:
Battle Court and Pelota from February through mid-December with a mid-season break
August will be a break from Battle Court & Pelota for some well-deserved time off for players and staff. August will also be dedicated to the two tournaments: the 4th annual USNJAC and the 2nd annual WSC (World Super Court).
Action will resume in September and has been extended to mid-December for 2023, which is about a month longer than Magic City schedules we’ve seen in the past.
There will be two Battle Court drafts, one in January and another for the fall Battle Court season. January is an off month; however it will be a practice month for players.
When action resumes in February the Battle Court schedule will be the same as the current schedule; Friday 7-pm EST and Mon/Tue 5-pm. The Pelota games will be Sunday through Tuesday at 1:30-pm.
The roster will be expanded, and the Magic City Fronton management has been flirting with the idea of adding a 5th Battle Court squad. No details have been released on the roster expansion and SayHiLi does not expect to hear about the final roster additions until January. Magic City Battle Court matches are alive and well and even expanded to a much larger viewing audience with the ESPN3 live coverage which was added this fall.
Here are a few notes on the current roster:
Bradley has been back in action and playing in Battle Court matches. He is not expected to play in the Pelota games the rest of this month.
Robin has been out with a knee injury and won’t be playing the rest of the year. He last played on October 4 and will undergo knee surgery in December. SayHiLi staff wishes him the best for that and a speedy recovery!
Diaz has been out with a back injury and will be out the rest of this month. He has been co-announcing with Stu and Andrew during Battle Court matches and providing some interesting tid-bits and banter from the perspective of a Magic City short-court player.
The 2022 Magic City end dates are as follows:
Battle Court Championship is Friday, Nov. 18
Pelota games final performance is Wednesday, Nov. 23
Don’t forget the Jai-5 and Mighty Ocho jackpots will be forced-out November 23rd. Currently the Jai-5 is $5,822.80 for the Monday, November 7th performance. Should this jackpot make it through another 8-performances without a single winning ticket it will be a whopper for the closing day force-out. Also, the Mighty Ocho, a $1.oo Pick 8 Jackpot wager will pay-out a minimum of $5,000 on the force-out day to those ticket holders with the most winners correctly selected. The Mighty Ocho has been hit for 8 of 8 correct winners twice since this challenging wager began in May of 2020.