Argentine casino group developing casino at Dania Jai-Alai

An Argentine group is converting the Dania Jai-Alai fronton in Broward County to a casino, providing jobs to more than 300 people from poker dealers to cashiers to waiters.

The Casino Club group, with minority partners from South Florida, bought the facility for $65.5 million in May 2013.

They are spending an initial $20 million in the fist phase of the makeover of the Dania Casino and Jai-Alai. That involves installing roughly 550 slot machines, a poker room and a deli, set to open in early 2014.

Long-term plans call for 1,400 slots, hotels and a marina, according to South Florida media reports.

The Argentine group operates 27 casinos, some under the Casino Club brand. The Dania venture is their first casino in the United States, Dania’s manager Bernie Gamboa told local media.

Casino Club bills itself as the largest chain of casinos and slot machines in Latin America. The company launched in 1992 in Comodoro Rivadavia in Argentina’s southern Patagonia region and employs more than 2,200 people, its website said.

The Dania site will become the eighth pari-mutuel in Broward and Miami-Dade counties to offer slots after Florida voters in 2004 allowed county referendums for slots at horse tracks, dog tracks and jai-alai frontons. The Seminole Tribe of Florida also has three casinos in Broward, reported gambling writer Nick Sortal of the South Florida Sun Sentinel..

Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming had paid $152 million for the Dania jai-alai site in 2006. But it chose not to install slots, citing a tax rate of 50 percent (now lowered to 35 percent) and competition from the nearby Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, which also has blackjack. Dania and other pari-mutuels can’t offer blackjack, Sortal reported.

Once the first phase at Dania opens, owners plan a second phase likely to take about a year to complete. That involves ripping up most of the jai-alai seats to make room for more slots, poker, restaurants and other facilities.

Jai-alai must be offered for property owners to keep the slot license. Workers have left several rows of seats for the few people who still watch and bet on the ancient Basque game. In the 1990s, the crowd was often thousands, but more gambling options and a players’ strike crippled jai-alai, Sortal said.

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