Jai-Alai is deemed the fastest ball sport on the face of the Earth. The best players in the world can hurl the ball at speeds upwards of 180 miles per hour. And now, thanks to Magic City Casino in Miami, you can buy your own professional Jai-Alai team.
With sports betting in Florida tied up in the courts, Jai-Alai and horse racing are the only sports Floridians can place a wager on currently. In February, Magic City formed a Jai-Alai league, and for $100,000, you can buy your own professional Jai-Alai team.
What is Jai-Alai?
In Jai-Alai (pronounced high-a-lie), players take turns launching a pelota off a wall. The pelota is a rubber ball a little smaller than a baseball and harder than a golf ball. A player on the other team must catch and return it. The object of the game is to throw the ball in a way that makes it unreturnable. If successful, a team gains one point.
The ball isn’t thrown and caught with your hands, though. Players use a long, curved wicker basket that is strapped to their wrist. This is how they can throw the pelota at such high speeds. It’s also how they are able to catch it without breaking their hands.
Jai-Alai was popular in the 1970s and ’80s, mostly because it gave people something to bet on besides horse racing. Casinos across the country offered legal, in-person Jai-Alai betting – and it was a hit. Scott Savin, COO of Magic City, said of those days:
“The average crowd on a [winter] Friday or Saturday night at Miami or Dania [Beach] Jai-Alai was anywhere from 7,000-10,000 people. And the average amount of money wagered on [those nights] was $1 million.”
Jai-Alai continued to grow until 1988 when players went on strike. The strike lasted for two years. Interest from fans and gamblers dropped. Coincidentally, the Florida Lottery started selling lottery tickets in January 1988, so gamblers had another thing to wager on.
While interest was at an all-time low, Jai-Alai held on in Florida. A gaming law required slot casinos to also have a parimutuel gaming business. That could be horse racing, greyhound racing or jai-alai at that time.
How Magic City became the home of Jai-Alai
This requirement kept the sport alive for the next three decades. In 2020, however, that gaming law was reversed through decoupling legislation. Slot casinos no longer were required to offer pari-mutuel gaming. It seemed to be the nail in Jai-Alai’s coffin.
Two years before the law was reversed, Magic City began hosting Jai-Alai matches. In 2020, when they had the opportunity to drop it, Magic City doubled down. They saw the coming sports betting boom as a chance to grow the sport.
Now, Magic City Jai-Alai is offering fans a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Magic City Jai-Alai is looking for team owners before its Battle Court Season 2 kicks off in September. Savin sees only upside with owning a team:
“This is a rare chance to own a sports team without a lot of the downsides of traditional sports team ownership opportunities. When you become an owner of one of our squads, you get a seat at the table on Draft Day when key decisions are made. You also see the dedication that these players put forth on that court firsthand and how thrilling this game really is.”
To become an owner, you will need to buy in at the fixed cost of $100,000. It’s a lot of money, but for those who have it, it’s an investment. Owners of the season’s winning squad earn revenue shares based on the league’s seasonal income.
Check out the Magic City Jai-Alai website for more information.