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New Dania owners have plans for slots, big renovations


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Plans are slipping out for what likely will be the final new casino in Broward County for a long time.

The expected new owners of Dania Jai-Alai, who formed a corporation called Dania Entertainment Center, have been showing renderings to town officials and neighborhood groups, and issued more details in a press release on Friday. The plans call for building additional space for slots adjacent to the 58-year-old jai-alai fronton and eventually working the back portion of the 50-acre property to make room for a hotel and a deepwater marina connected to an existing canal.

The company plans to reduce seating in the fronton from approximately 5,000 to 1,800 seats and convert it to a “multi-purpose live performance venue” on the times there is no jai-alai, the release says. But jai-alai isn't going anywhere: The state requires at least 150 sessions for owners to keep the slot license.

But jai-alai hasn't been hot for years. The fronton used to draw about 1,000 people a day and 10,000 on weekends 1970s and 1980s. Now, attendance often is below 100 people as jai-alai nationwide has dwindled from 14 frontons nationwide to six. Dania also currently has a poker room.

Also coming: A buffet style restaurant, two casual restaurants, and a fine dining restaurant with a performance stage and dinner theater style seating. a night club, lounge and day club with pool and cabanas.

If you want to see the floor plans -- and I suggest you do -- click on download file. Looks like the slots will be behind the fronton, and a pool on the second floor, and poker stays the same, except for a high-limit area. Would love comments.

Download file

Download file

Dania Jai-Alai will be the fourth Broward pari-mutuel to add slots, following a referendum that county voters approved in 2005. But while Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino, Mardi Gras Casino and the Isle Casino & Racing have had their slots spinning for four years, Dania Jai-Alai’s parent company, Boyd Gaming in Las Vegas, held off on remodeling the fronton, citing a poor economic climate, an unfavorable slot tax rate from the state and heavy competition from the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in nearby Hollywood.

On May 2, Boyd announced it was selling the fronton to local businessmen, taking a $72 million loss on its 2006 $152 million purchase price. The buyers were identified only as Dania Entertainment Center LLC. Boyd said Wednesday that the buyers can extended the purchase date by two months by paying $2 million.

Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering must approve the company's application for a business license. Records show the group is headed by four men: Harris Friedman, Louis Birdman, Barton Seidler, and Steven Levy. They would not be available for comment, according to the press release.

The release said the Dania Entertainment Center group members have been individually involved in the financing, investment, acquisition and/or development of various commercial, residential and hotel projects across the United State for the past 25 years. The company is currently in confidential negotiations with a “nationally recognized gaming management and development partner,” who will run the casino. (And, like the other pari-mutuels, we're talking slots for now; the Seminoles have exclusivity for blackjack and some other table games.)

The state has been discussing allowing sites other than pari-mutuels to run casinos. Last spring, some legislators discussed allowing one “destination-style” casino in each of five geographic regions in Florida, most likely with every casino game you see in Las Vegas or Atlantic City. Meanwhile, Miami-Dade has added Calder Casino & Race Course and Magic City Casino recently, and Miami Jai-Alai and Hialeah Park are moving along, with just slots and poker.

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About the author
Maybe you've made the right play, maybe you haven't. Your heart speeds up, your stomach rumbles.

That's why it's called gambling.

ACTION is a view of the numbers, the psychology and the flavor of gambling here in South Florida, through our lens.

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NICK SORTAL began playing 3-card "gut" and "Indian poker" on high school band trips, moved on to "night baseball" and "pass the trash" during a Dr. Pepper-infused midnight game in the 1980s at the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, and now play in a regular neighborhood Hold 'Em game in Plantation. I have been given the assignment of writing about the gambling life in South Florida casinos for the Sun-Sentinel...which means sitting around watching poker on TV now counts as research.
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