Orlanda Jai-Alai Closes, Wait, Not So Fast…

Orlando Jai-Alai shut its doors, but then announced it wasnt shutting its doors. Hooray!

Just last week the Orlando Jai-Alai, home to the most popular form of gaming in the state a little more than twenty years ago, announced that they were closing their doors since the only form of betting allowed at the site was on jai-alai and off track races. This week officials announced that the sporting facility was to be purchased by a mysterious man with ‘deep pockets’, and he is going to push hard to get poker approved in Seminole County.

The workers at the Orlando Jai-Alai are relieved for now, but the sale is not yet final. However, more than 75 employees will be able to keep their jobs through the holidays, and the players who participate in the jai-alai tournaments are now preparing for their next season, which starts in February.

Orlando Jai-Alai was joining the rest of the state’s failed gambling facilities who could not compete with the expansion of gaming in the state. First it was the state lottery and bingo games that pushed cruise ships to go out of business. Then the Seminoles brought bingo style slot machines to the mainstream and then parimutuels were allowed the same games, and now blackjack has entered the state making it almost impossible for smaller facilities to compete.

Many of Florida’s non-Vegas style gambling sites are now fueled by the popular game of poker, but Seminole County does not allow poker and Orlando Jai-Alai just couldn’t compete without it.

Many in the area wish that gaming were completely legalized in the county, but religious fundamentalists strongly oppose expansion, claiming that gambling establishments bring with them poverty and neighborhood degradation. Supporters point to the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood as to how a casino can actually attract tourists and revenue to the city, while providing thousands of jobs that revitalize the community.

The prospective owner of Orlando Jai-Alai has reportedly said he will try hard to bring poker to Seminole County, but the identity of the new owner has yet to have been revealed.

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