Owner Of Old Jai-Alai Fronton Wants To Bring Poker To Orlando

A new poker room may be coming to Florida as the owner of the old Jai-Alai fronton in Orlando is trying to turn the facility into a giant entertainment complex that would have gambling facilities in it.

Richard Birdoff, owner of RD Management, a New York-based company that owns the building and the land around it, submitted plans several years ago to Seminole County to turn the area into a massive complex that would have apartments, condominiums, and both retail and office space. But he recently announced that he was partnering with The Cordish Companies to add gambling to his project.

The Cordish Companies already run Live! Casinos in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The Maryland-based company was in the running to get a casino license in Richmond, VA as well, but residents of Virginia’s capital voted against bringing a casino to the city last November.

The new development will be named Live! Oxford Town Center and is projected to be anywhere between 50,000 and 70,000 square feet. Gambling would be just a small percentage of the overall proposal. According to lawyers representing RD Management and Cordish, the gambling areas would represent roughly 3% of the overall project.

For Live! Oxford Town Center to add limited gambling to it, it needs to be approved by the Seminole County Commissioners, who would then allow it to be voted on by the residents of the county in a ballot referendum in November. According to a report from the Orlando Sentinel, the commissioners are split on the idea.

If the proposal gets past the elected officials, the ballot referendum would ask if “gambling should be allowed at the proposed Oxford Town Center development.”

The Orlando Jai-Alai fronton was set to close in 2009, but Birdoff’s company purchased the building in 2010 and began using the building as a pari-mutuel facility where gamblers could bet on simulcast races. Even though it is being rented to Journey Church, the gambling license is still active.

Having a pari-mutuel license would allow for a poker room but would not allow for sports betting under the current landscape. Since a federal judge ruled last month that the gaming compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe violated federal law, the tribe was forced to shutter its short-lived online sportsbook.

While it remains to be seen in which format sports betting comes to the Sunshine State, it seems inevitable that it will arrive. It’s unlikely that the new Orlando facility would be built before that distinction is made by the courts.

For poker players in Central Florida, a room in Orlando would add plenty of conveniences as Disney’s influence has kept gambling out of the city.

The Seminole Hard Rock Tampa’s poker room is about an hour away, and so is the poker room at the pari-mutuel in Daytona Beach. Orange City Racing and Card Club is likely the closest option but doesn’t have the selection of games that the other two properties provide.