Rush Street Interactive Strikes Deal with Magic City to Take Jai Alai Betting Online

Rush Street Interactive has partnered with Florida parimutuel venue Magic City in a deal that will take jai alai betting online for the first time.

Magic City
Magic City
The first US National Jai-Alai Championship, pictured, took place at Magic City in April 2020. (Image: Aaron Gilbert/Brickell Magazine)

The partnership will give the BetRivers online sportsbook exclusive rights to Magic City Jai-Alai’s official league data and streaming feeds, allowing customers to watch matches and bet in real time. Since Magic City launched the league in 2018 it has hosted more than 4,000 matches.

It’s hoped the deal will provide a much-needed shot in the arm for a sport that faces an existential crisis in the US.

Last week, The Casino @ Dania beach in Miami announced that it would discontinue jai alai after 69 years and was negotiating an early buyout of its players contracts, which were due to expire in May 2022.

That leaves just three remaining active professional jai alai frontons in the US, including Magic City. All venues are in Florida where a recent change in the law has left the sport with an uncertain future.

Cloudy Future

Until recently, the state’s parimutuel venues were required to offer a quota of either live horse racing, dog racing or jai alai as a condition of their license to operate other games, such as poker and non-banked card games.

But a deal negotiated between the Seminole tribal casino operator and the Florida legislature in April has allowed the venues to “decouple” their main gaming operations from these attractions, which are expensive to run and often unprofitable.

But while others are abandoning the sport, Magic City is sticking by jai alai — and finding new ways to monetize it, as the Rush Street deal highlights. Last year, it held the inaugural US National Jai-Alai Championship, which brings together 100 of the world’s best players to compete for a $25,000 prize.

Magic City COO Scott Savin told VSiN earlier this month his company was also modifying the betting options, bringing them in line with modern tastes.

“We’re moving away from the old pari-mutuel style and now you can bet on individual players or doubles partners just like you do in tennis and ping-pong,” Savin said. “If you’re used to betting on baseball or football or other sports with money lines, you’ll understand how to bet on jai-alai.”

‘World’s Fastest Sport’

Billed as the world’s fastest sport because the ball is said to travel upward of 180 mph, jai alai originated in Spain’s Basque country and came to the US via Latin America. With echoes of racquetball, players engage in high-speed catches and throws with the aid of long, curved baskets called cestas.

The first professional jai alai fronton in the US opened in Miami in the 1920s and thrived for several decades in Florida, Rhode Island and Connecticut, where games would attract thousands of betting spectators. But tastes changed as different types of gambling games became available. Endangered in Florida, it’s now extinct in New England.

RSI chief executive Richard Schwartz said in a statement he hoped the new deal would help jai alai recapture some of its former glory.

“RSI is excited to partner with Magic City Jai-Alai to pioneer this new fast-paced format of play for jai-alai, a sport which has long been a betting favorite and has a storied history in Florida dating back to the 1930’s,” Schwartz said.

“Jai-Alai is the fastest sport in the world, with ball speeds exceeding 150 mph, and with this new electrifying format, we are really excited to offer bettors a unique way to watch in real-time and bet in-play on a sport we know they will love.”

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