Facility gets permit for Jai-alai and poker
Florida authorities have given the go-ahead for a gambling facility for jai-alai and poker to open in Miami. The facility, which will operate in Edgewater, near downtown Miami, will come into effect within the next two years according to the permit granted by the state Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, which is part of the Departement of Business and Professional Regulation that oversees gambling.
The new “summer jai-alai” permit is a victory for West Flagler, which had sought permission for another facility and won a court case last year reinstating its application for a second jai-alai permit using a loophole in state law, the West Flagler.
“We’ve just been waiting for a year and a half for the state to decide what to do,” West Flagler vice president Isadore Havenick said of the second permit. “We see it as just another entertainment offering in the Miami area.”
The Edgewater project, which does not yet have a name, would join other new facilities in South Florida expanding jai-alai, a sport that was common until the early 1980s but has faded since in popularity. Magic City Casino, its sister facility southeast of Miami International Airport, is phasing out dog racing for jai-alai even as it continues to operate slot machines. The owner of Hialeah Park also recently opened Kings Court Key, a Florida City complex also offering jai-alai and poker.
The “summer jai-alai” permit allows gambling on jai-alai games only from May through November, and the company can begin hosting poker games after the first jai-alai game is played. In the winter season when games are not allowed, the facility will house improve comedy performances and concerts for local bands, Havenick said. The facility is also expected to include a restaurant and hire 300 to 500 people.
Because West Flagler does not intend to operate slot machines at the Edgewater site, the facility’s permit would not be affected by a requirement that the Legislature approve any new casinos or a constitutional amendment on the ballot this November that would shift approval for expanding casino gambling to voters. The amendment could affect what kinds of poker games are played on site.
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