The U.S. National Jai-Alai Championship will be held Friday through Sunday at Magic City Casino & Jai-Alai in Miami, Fla., and is sponsored by BetRivers.
The tournament includes 100 of the top jai-alai players from around the world, with amateurs competing on Friday and Sunday, and the professionals playing Sunday for $25,000 in prize money. This tournament was held for the first time last year and singles champion Jairo Baroja and doubles champions Inigo Gorostola and Inaki Goitiandia are back to defend their titles. Other top players include Michael Carballo (last year’s singles runner-up), Matt Langhans, Erik Mendizabal and Ben Langhans. All of the action can be viewed on the Jai-Alai Channel on YouTube.
The BetRivers Sportsbook & Casino is operated by Rush Street Interactive and started taking bets in Iowa on head-to-head jai-alai matches at Magic City last Monday, Aug. 16, and added Illinois bettors the next day.
The sport of jai-alai has a long gambling history in Florida dating back to 1935. With the players finishing in order like horse racing and dog racing, pari-mutuel wagering has long been the way spectators gambled on the sport. However, Scott Savin, COO of Magic City Casino & Jai-Alai, said his company and BetRivers are trying to change that.
“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.”
Savin said wagering wouldn’t be offered on the national championship tournament but would resume after with the hopes to have wagering available in five to nine states by the end of the year.
“The tournament is a way to highlight the sport to get badly needed exposure,” Savin said. “Jai-alai is the fastest ball sport in the world -- and it sells itself.”