New jai-alai fronton, poker room set to open in Florida City

Gonzalo Vivanco, left, and Inigo Calzacorta own a company that builds jai-alai courts. They hustled up to build one in Florida City.
Gonzalo Vivanco, left, and Inigo Calzacorta own a company that builds jai-alai courts. They hustled up to build one in Florida City.

A new pari-mutuel facility opens this month, way down in Florida City, a town of about 12,000 linking south Miami and the Florida Keys.

By utilizing a recently discovered portion of a 1980 law, Hialeah Park owner John Brunetti Sr. received an extra pari-mutuel permit, and this month is completing construction of a jai-alai court and poker room. The court seats about 150; the poker room consists of six tables.

It is called King’s Court.

By law, King’s Court must operate a jai-alai session before it can offer poker. The first match is set for noon June 11, followed by noon June 16 and 18, then noon and 6 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays in July. The facility can add simulcasting after 58 jai-alai performances.

Hialeah tournament director Aaron Roiter will run the card room, which players can connect to via BravoPoker.com. He said he’s “beyond excited,” citing that opportunities to open a room from scratch are rare. No poker room is within 35 miles or so of the King’s Court facility, which expects to draw patrons from Homestead, Kendall, and those dissatisfied with Miccosukee Resort & Gaming.

Hialeah officials contracted with a company based in Markina (Basque country on the border of France and Spain) to construct the jai-alai walls, which are made of a very sturdy tempered glass and can absorb the 100-mph-plus pelota flings of players.

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Columnist Nick Sortal AL DIAZ adiaz@miamiherald.com

“It’s impossible to break,” says Gonzalo Vivanco, of JaiAlaiCourts.com. “A Formula One driver couldn’t go through it.”

Each of the 88 glass panels comprising the main, back, and side jai-alai walls weighs 670 pounds.

The 1980 law, uncovered by John Lockwood, a lawyer for Hialeah Park’s competitor, Magic City Casino, states that the lowest-performing pari-mutuel in a county can apply for an extra jai-alai permit. Magic City gobbled up a permit in 2011 and others have followed, even though jai-alai itself is a dying sport.

Magic City also had its eye on the Florida City property, just east of the landmark Mutineer lounge, the first imbibing opportunity as travelers hit the Florida Keys. Brunetti bought the 38 acres, across from the Florida Keys Outlet Mall, for $6.7 million.

Ultimate Miami

Ultimate Miami, now in its sixth season, showcases South Florida’s rising stars in entertainment, arts and mixology. They compete for a prize of $5,000 and the title of “Miami’s Ultimate,” over the course of three nights. The local talent kicks off the show and shares the stage with nationally recognized headliners each evening.

Comic Carlos Mencia headlines the comedian competition at 8 p.m. Thursday. Then at 9 p.m. Friday, contestants vie to be the Ultimate Miami Drag Queen. Sharon Needles and Jinkx Monsoon will perform. At 9 p.m. Saturday is the Ultimate Miami Bartender competition, with performances by hip-hop artist Rob Base and freestyle favorites TKA and Lime.

Tickets are $40 on Thursday and Saturday, $25 on Friday. Go to MagicCityCasino.com.

Gulfstream event

Gulfstream Park has linked together a series of events that it is promoting as Twilight Racing Fridays.

The starting time for racing has been moved back to 2:15 p.m., so that those arriving after work can catch the last race or two. The track also offers “horse racing bingo,” which is free to play via a smart device or with a game card. Signups run from 1:45 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the bingo booth.

Each week, losing tickets from Gulfstream Park races ($5 minimum bet) can be entered for a drawing for smart TVs, phones, tablets and other prizes. Meanwhile, 13 venues at The Village at Gulfstream Park have happy hour lineups, and starting at 4:30 p.m. are drink specials and Latin flair offered at Ten Palms, the Breezeway Bar, and Tito’s Bar.

Then at 7 p.m., live bands perform in the walking ring. Go to GulfstreamPark.com for the schedule.

Coming up

▪ Cuban entertainer Alexis Valdés gives a free show at 9 p.m. Friday in the Paddock Garden at Hialeah Park. Valdés, whose repertoire includes singing, comedy, monologues, screenwriting, and producing, is best known for TV comedy shows Seguro Que Yes on America Teve and Ésta Es Tu Noche on Mega TV.

▪ Seminole Classic has a $50,000 Progressive Giveaway from 3-11 p.m. Saturday and June 17. Five players will be called every hour to win $500 each, and one person wins $5,000 free play at 11 p.m. All unclaimed prizes will be added to the 11 p.m. drawing on June 17.

▪ Visitors to Seminole Casino Coconut Creek have until Friday to enter a $75,000 blackjack tournament hosted by Cuban model Vida Guerra. Fill out entry forms at CasinoCoco.com. The tournament is at 6 p.m. June 17.

▪ The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino gives away an Amazon Fire Table from 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Players who earn 10 comp dollars playing slots from midnight to 3 p.m. on Sunday win the prize.

▪ The Casino @ Dania Beach has a daily bonus for those who accrue players’ club points. Earn 150 points to spin a prize wheel for up to $120 free play. Earn 500 points and the prizes increase to a top award of $240 free play.

▪ Mardi Gras Casino begins a Latin buffet from 4-9 p.m. Sundays. Cost is $18, and includes garlic roasted chicken, specialty rice and a black bean bar with assorted. On Father’s Day, June 18, a rib-eye steak with sides is $20. The $5 drink of the month is the Mardi Gras Sunset: Vodka, pineapple juice and cranberry juice, topped with Peach Schnapps.

▪ The Isle Casino gives away a different piece of dinnerware from 3-9 p.m. each Monday in June. Players must earn at least 500 tier points to receive the prize.