DANIA BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Jai alai at The Casino @ Dania Beach will come to an end later this year after 70 years, signaling the end of an era for the sport in South Florida.
The casino announced it is pulling the plug on the once popular sport, Tuesday.
Although the sport once drew 7,000 to 10,000 fans per match, now, casino officials said, they are lucky to get 100 people in attendance.
“People’s behavior and entertainment liking has changed over the past 20 to 30 years,” The Casino @ Dania Beach General Manager Arnaldo Suarez said.
The sport can be described as a combination of racketball and lacrosse, according to fans.
“The ball goes over 150 mph,” John Nulazo said. “It’s spinning. It curves. It knuckleballs, and you’re catching it with a 4-inch wide gap in your cesta. It’s the greatest sport in the world. It’s artistry.”
The Casino @ Dania Beach was the last to offer Jai alai, and there are a handful of people who will miss it, including 80-year-old Bob Gerard. Gerard has been coming to watch and place small bets for 50 years.
“It’s kind of, like, heartbreaking for me because I’ve been coming here since I’ve been a kid,” Gerard said.
However, casino officials said there is not enough attendance to keep the sport running.
“I was sad when I saw that online yesterday,” Nulazo said. “I was almost in tears. That’s how it hit me. I love the game.”
Jai alai will continue to be played at the casino until Nov. 28.
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