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Back when South Florida was just growing into its own, before it was one of the United States top tourist states, the game of Jai Alai was as popular as ever in the region.
Fast forward to 2007 and the very sport that began the gambling fever in South Florida, could be the one sport that does not survive as casino gambling becomes more prevalent in the area.
According to reports from the Miami Herald, Tuesday afternoon over 20 Jai Alai players gathered in front of Florida’s House Speaker, Marco Rubio’s, office and voiced their concerns about their sport heading toward extinction.
According to the Herald, their plea was for Rubio, who opposes casino gambling, to keep battling for what he believes and to not allow casinos to kill the sport they love.
Lotteries and gambling casinos have taken away many of the gambling dollars that were being spent at places such as Dania Jai Alai.
Voters in Dade County rejected slot machines back in 2005, but with the issue back on the ballot in January, and expecting to pass this time, it fears players whose livelihood has been playing the game they love.
Florida is the only state left in the nation that has Jai Alai matches, and even if slots are approved this time, Miami is not ready to give up on the sport.
Dan Licciardi, vice president and general manager of Miami Jai Alai told a Miami Herald reporter that, “Miami was the birthplace of Jai Alai in America. We’ve been here since 1926, we still believe it’s an integral part of our business.”
He continued by stating, “We look at it as a draw, something that other places wouldn’t have, our goal is to keep it very strong, very viable.”
While the intent may be there to salvage the game, nothing will be determined until the money starts pouring in from the slots, and that is where the players feel the end of the road will come for this long standing South Florida sport.