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Friday, June 02, 2006


- Las Vegas gambling giant Boyd Gambling has purchased Dania Jai-Alai and 50 surrounding acres for $152.2 million. The facility was the only one of the four Broward County pari-mutuels that had not announced lavish expansion plans to go along with the slot machines that are expected to go online later this year.

''We want Dania to be a first-class entertainment facility,'' said Steve Snyder, president of The Aragon Group, which has owned the fronton for the past 35 years. ``We need expertise and resources that are greater than ours. I always said we'd bring in someone with that expertise.'' [Miami Herald]
The jai-alai players themselves were said to be “leery” as to the company’s intentions, and who can blame them? Boyd is obviously not there to yell “CHULA!” The sport has been dying a slow death, and there’s either five or six active frontons remaining in this country, depending on which account one reads. However, the company met with the players to assure them that jai-alai will remain “part of the showcase of their facility.”
Players, who currently make between $40,000 and $65,000 a year, agreed to a new contract with the owners of Dania that allows them a $15,000 to $20,000 bonus at the end of the year. That figure would escalate, according to Irusta, depending on the growth of jai-alai and revenue once slots are installed. [Sun-Sentinal]
And here’s the “I remember when” part of this post, as I spent a fair amount of time at Dania during visits to Florida back in the late 70’s; and the place was really hopping, even for the weekday matinees.

It did always seem kind of strange, though, making pari-mutuel wagers on a sport featuring strictly humans. The possibility for chicanery is just so obvious. No drugging nor elaborate conspiracies are necessary; just a simple drop of the ball will do. The idea of betting on animals seemed somehow more reliable. Still, it is an exciting game, and the atmosphere was electric. Perhaps Boyd can use the fact that it’s become such an rarity amongst the vast selection of gambling options to market it as a unique night out, and breathe a little life into it. If they really do care about it, that is.

- In April, Harrah’s donated $500,000 to the Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission to help increase purses for four Sire Stakes races this year. They claimed that they were being “good citizens,” and that it had nothing to do with the fact that they are one of the competitors for a lucrative stand-alone casino license for Pittsburgh.

But now, in Illinois, Harrah’s is one of four casino companies that have filed suit against the state over a new law that would require them to give 3% of their gross earnings, an estimated $36 million annually, to the tracks.
The horse-racing industry is supposed to give $20 million to breeders and horse owners in the form of larger racing purses, and the other $16 million is to be used to upgrade tracks and market the industry. [Chicago Tribune]
In 1999, a law granted benefits, such as dockside gaming, to the riverboat casinos, in return for subsidies that the racing industry was to receive from what was supposed to be the tenth casino in the state. However, that casino never was built, and this new law is merely intended to compensate the racing industry for that loss of income. Wagering on horse racing in Illinois has decreased by 42% from $835 million to $482 million since the first riverboat casino opened in 1992. Besides Harrah’s, Penn National, owner of two of the other affected casinos (only the four largest, of the nine in the state, are subject to the fee) is involved in the suit as well. This is all something to keep in mind the next time a casino company – even ones that currently own racetracks – tell you just how much they care about the sport.