Isle Casino Pompano looks to revive fast-paced game

Isle Casino Pompano looks to revive fast-paced game

Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park is the latest gambling mecca looking to install the centuries-old court game, and spectators bet on the outcomes of head-to-head matches.
But the plan would mean phasing out the casino’s long-time harness racetrack in favor of a jai alai fronton that seats up to 300 people, suggests the casino’s parent, ElDorado Resorts, in a proposal filed with the City of Pompano deposit bonus casinos
The planned move comes after decades as a horse racing venue in the winter months. On its website, Isle Casino says it has been “Home to World-Class Standardbred Racing since 1964.”
It is unclear why Eldorado, of Reno, NV., and its joint venture partner, Cordish Companies of Baltimore, has elected to install jai alai, a sport that has been on the wane in South Florida for decades. ElDorado representatives did not respond to a request for comment. But in an email late Friday to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Cordish CEO David Cordish suggested that both sports could co-exist at Pompano Park.
Whatever emerges, there is a strong notion among jai alai promoters that their sport is undergoing somewhat of a revival in South Florida. The sport, executives say, which suffered a dramatic decline in popularity since a strike in the early 1990s, is showing signs of a comeback.
Magic City Casino in Miami just started its second jai alai season after closing its greyhound dog racing operation in the wake of a statewide constitutional amendment halting the sport. Gulfstream West, formerly known as Calder Race Course, which dropped horse racing, is starting its second season Aug. 1. Casino Miami starts a new season in December. And Dania Beach Jai Alai, the stalwart of the sport in South Florida for decades, was part of a recently completed multimillion dollar renovation of The Casino at Dania Beach.
“Our ownership group and management firmly believe that jai alai can be re-energized within the South Florida community,” said Arnaldo Suarez, general manager of The Casino at Dania Beach. “It’s an icon of the city. It has brought thousands of people to our fronton."
A much faster version of racquetball, jai-alai originated in the Basque region of northern Spain centuries ago. To succeed on the court, players need extraordinary hand-eye coordination and quick reflexes. The ball, called a pelota, travels up to 150 mph. Players may not hold the ball, and use a curved basket called a cesta for catching and throwing, which is continuous.

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