Sun Sentinel Broward Edition

Money on the ta­bles

Casino pointed to­ward a De­cem­ber open­ing

- By Nick Sor­tal Staff writer Nsor­tal@SouthFlori­da.com

Huge makeover read­ies casino for re­open­ing.

Some­times the sign of progress is a com­pletely gut­ted build­ing. The 62-year-old site of Da­nia Jai-Alai is down to its skele­ton as con­struc­tion work­ers hus­tle to open a full casino on the site in De­cem­ber.

And when Da­nia CEO Scott Savin says full casino, he’s talk­ing about more than slots, poker and jai-alai.

“This can be a spe­cial place if you do it right,” he said.

Savin is also chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of Magic City Casino (for­merly Fla­gler Dog Track), which bought one-fourth of Da­nia Jai-Alai last year. The Magic City team, which op­er­ates the most lu­cra­tive casino in Miami-Dade County, will run the new Da­nia casino, in a part­ner­ship with a group of Ar­gen­tine in­vestors.

Da­nia Jai-Alai’s makeover will cost $40 mil­lion to $50 mil­lion and the build­ing “is ba­si­cally a shell,” Savin said.

The casino at Da­nia has had a rocky start. Gulf­stream Park and Mardi Gras Casino in Hal­lan­dale Beach were of­fer­ing slots by 2006 af­ter Broward vot­ers ap­proved them in 2004. But Da­nia par­ent com­pany Boyd Gam­ing held off on in­stalling slots. Boyd then an­nounced a sale to lo­cal in­vestors in 2011, only for fi­nanc­ing to fall through.

Then Ar­gen­tine busi­ness­men bought the fron­ton in 2013 and opened one-fourth of the build­ing with slots and poker on Feb. 14, only to close it eight months later in or­der to just go for the full makeover.

So now bull­doz­ers are clear­ing the valet park­ing en­try­way for a makeover; roofers are hus­tling to beat the rainy sea­son; and the ap­prox­i­mately 9,000 au­di­to­rium seats have been ripped out to make way for slots. A 30-ta­ble poker room, simul­cast area and sports bar will be on the sec­ond floor be­hind the slots. A con­cert area, called Stage 954 (mod­eled af­ter Magic City’s Stage 305 in Miami-Dade) is be­ing built in the sec­ond-floor area that had been used for slots dur­ing last year’s brief open­ing.

Savin says one of the big­gest fea­tures will be a repack­ag­ing and re-em­pha­sis on jai-alai. A large video screen will show the ac­tion on the slot floor, and pa­trons vis­it­ing a new deli and/or buf­fet will be able to place bets on the games. The em­pha­sis on the game runs counter to the gen­eral trend, with jai-alai in­ter­est crip­pled by a 1988 player’s strike, the Florida Lot­tery and other en­ter­tain­ment op­tions.

“So many peo­ple in their 40s and 50s tell me they re­mem­ber the good times they had at Da­nia Jai-Alai,” Savin said. “We’re not ready to give up on it.”

Savin said Magic City Casino has pros­pered be­cause it of­fers all kinds of op­tions, and the same plan is here.

“We want to of­fer all phases of a night out: jai-alai, card room, casino, restau­rants and en­ter­tain­ment,” he said, not­ing that bands from the 1970s through the 1990s have been the core of Magic City’s mu­sic card. “It’s not just com­ing out and play­ing slot ma­chines.”

He says Da­nia has an ad­van­tage be­cause it’s the clos­est casino to Fort Laud­erdale, and be­ing close to the air­port and port means that 21 mil­lion air trav­el­ers and 3 mil­lion cruisers a year might stop by.

“Hope­fully, we’ll sur­prise a few peo­ple,” he said. “And it’s my job to scoop some of them up and bring them over here, ei­ther be­fore or af­ter their trips.”

 ?? CAR­LINE JEAN/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER ?? There’s not much left of the old Da­nia Jai-Alai. “This can be a spe­cial place,” says Scott Savin, CEO of Da­nia En­ter­tain­ment, above.
CAR­LINE JEAN/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER There’s not much left of the old Da­nia Jai-Alai. “This can be a spe­cial place,” says Scott Savin, CEO of Da­nia En­ter­tain­ment, above.

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