Place your bets: Slots, Poker and More
South Florida certainly has its share of music and dining venues, but there are only six where you can also get in some gambling as well.
The Miami-Dade casino scene began growing in 2009, when Magic City Casino became the first of four horse tracks, dog tracks or jai-alai frontons in the county to offer slots. Magic City Casino, formerly known as Flagler Dog Track, joined the existing Miccosukee Resort & Gaming, a Native American facility in west Miami-Dade. (Indian casinos became legal shortly after a 1988 law was passed.)
Hialeah Park, Calder Casino in Miami Gardens and Casino Miami have since followed, all as a result of voter approval in 2008.
All the casinos offer slots, and Hialeah Park, Magic City and Miccosukee also have poker. A new poker-only facility also opened in 2017 in Florida City, called Kings Court.
Here are some options for those seeking a good time out:
Entertainment: The Habana Boys at 8 p.m. March 2-3 and 4 p.m. March 4 at Hialeah Park. The group’s set list covers operatic pieces such as “Una Furtiva Lagrima” and “O Sole Mio,” Broadway staples from “West Side Story” and “Les Miserables,” 1950s and ‘60s standards by The Temptations, The Four Tops, and Jackie Wilson, Cuban standards from the Buena Vista Social Club, and contemporary hits by Gloria Estefan. Magic City Casino has one big show a month in early 2017, with Air Supply on Jan. 27, the Rock 2K Music Festival Feb. 24 (with Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth and Uncle Kracker), followed by Ragdoll: A Tribute to the Four Seasons on March 17 and Rick Springfield on April 14. Calder Casino Ladies Night from 6-9 p.m. the first Friday of every month. There’s live music with the Fusion Band and drawings for Grey Goose Gift Sets and shopping gift cards.
Electronic table games: Florida racetracks can’t offer live blackjack, but the electronic version allows players to gamble at lower limits, and some say it’s less intimidating. There’s also electronic roulette, if you want to take a chance on your lucky number.
Slot action: Among the favorite games at South Florida casinos is Diamond Lotto, and it’s easy to figure out. You simply select six numbers from 1-10, determine how much you want to bet (from a dime to a dollar) and push the button. Experts say Diamond Lotto is especially popular with the Cuban population, because it harkens back to their days of playing a lottery-type game called bolita (little ball). Also note that most casinos offer some sort of incentive if you sign up at their player’s club. Often you will be given a voucher to play the first $10 to $30 of slots on house as a get-to-know-you gift.
Poker: Because the area has so many casinos, the poker rooms compete for customers. They offer what are called high hand jackpots: In other words, the player who has the best hand throughout the entire room during, say, a 30-minute window, wins the jackpot – often $500. The high hand jackpot gives poker player who are even betting just $2 per hand a chance at making a big score, if their cards fall right. Meanwhile, Hialeah Park has tournaments for less than $100 in Mondays and Wednesdays; Magic City Casino has them on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays.
Pari-mutuel action: Hialeah Park has quarterhorse action, which are races that last less than 25 seconds and are run down a straightaway. Casino Miami offers jai-alai and Magic City is the venue for dog racing. Calder Casino’s racing is operated by Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, and only 40 days of racing are held in Miami Gardens. In fact, all of the pari-mutuel schedules have lengthy offseason stretches, so make sure to check with your venue of choice before heading over.
Nick Sortal began covering the casino scene as a South Florida Sun-Sentinel staff writer in 2006. He now writes a weekly column for The Miami Herald and daily news on his site, SouthFloridaGambling.com. Contact him at NickSortal@BellSouth.net