Now that the sale of Dania Jai-Alai has fallen through, Boyd Gaming Corp. is doing what every other South Florida pari-mutuel is doing: Awaiting action by the Florida legislature.
Boyd Gaming, based in Las Vegas, announced earlier this year that it was selling Dania Jai-Alai to a group of local investors, taking a $72 million loss on the $152 million it paid in 2006. But the deal fell apart Nov. 28.
That means Boyd, which operates 16 properties in six states, can find another buyer, continue operating the lowest-performing pari-mutuel in South Florida, or put in slot machines, as five other Broward and Miami-Dade pari-mutuels have done.
Installing slot machines could be more attractive if the Florida Legislature were to reduce the slots tax at jai-alai frontons and horse and dog tracks, as one bill would do. The same bill would bring up to three destination gambling resorts to Florida.
The slot tax stands at 35 percent, and Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, said Wednesday that she will suggest dropping it to 18 percent – a rate analysts say could make Boyd more likely to keep Dania and install slots.
Still, Boyd is keeping its cards close to the vest.
“It is not reasonable for us to speculate on any future changes there until we have a chance to assess the impact that any legislation that is forthcoming may have on the situation,” said Rob Meyne, vice president of corporate communications for Boyd.
When Broward County voters approved slots in 2005, the legislature approved a 50 percent tax rate on slots, and three pari-mutuels opened. The rate was reduced last year, but Boyd still hasn’t added slots.
“They were probably the smartest one, not to open,” said Steve Geller, a former state legislator and past president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States. “None of the others could have made it without support from their parent companies.”
Dania would have a challenge coming into the market now, analysts say. The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino dominates Broward County, and Mardi Gras and Gulfstream are only a few miles away in Hallandale Beach.
State figures show Dania is last among the 22 pari-mutuel poker rooms in Florida, taking in only $38,473 – a 50 percent drop from its November 2010 figures.
In July, the potential buyers released renderings that included a hotel and a deep water marina connected to an existing canal. They planned four restaurants and a day club with pool and cabanas. They put a $7 million nonrefundable deposit on the deal.
The potential buyers, listed on state records as Harris Friedman, Louis Birdman, Barton Seidler and Steven Levy, declined comment, their publicist said.