25 reasons for the decline of Jai Alai Posted on September 27, 2021 at 09:23:09 PM by Daniel I
Yes, I thought of 25 reasons! I considered 50, but many of these get redundant. The lower the number, the more damaging it was. Feel free to disagree, but it really shows how sad it is that there were this many factors that led to the downfall of the sport.
1) “Open the doors and they’ll come” attitude from owners until it was way too late; not willing or able to stem the obvious downward spiral in the audience, which in turn made more people stop coming.
2) Hard costs: cestas, pelotas very expensive and handmade. Overhead on huge buildings a real problem for management. Not sustainable when peak attendance declined. Cost cutting on rosters affected play and caused injuries and turned off new fans and bored long-time fans, especially when it came to 8 man single games. Also a downward spiral.
3) Management unwilling or unable to overcome misconception that jai-alai was fixed to the casual fans.
4) Players strike: 1988-1991
5) Expanded entertainment: Sports teams in Florida, greater marketing on entertainment dollars elsewhere
6) The Internet (this was after several frontons closed, but it took away more gambling dollars with online wagering and people had yet another entertainment distraction)
7) General growth of fantasy sports
8) Expanded gaming in Florida, including the lottery and Hard Rock café
9) Simulcasting. A double-edged sword, there was revenue but it cannibalized frontons. Shane Best told me 1998 before Tampa closed that frontons would fold into each other if they didn’t simulcast out and that did happened. Plus, frontons did not get the take they would have if people were there live, so they got less per gambler.
10) Legalization of sports betting outside traditional hubs of Las Vegas & Atlantic City which in recent years has put a focus away from pari-mutual betting.
11) Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods: Final nail in the coffin for Connecticut, which was the beacon of showing the sport could exist outside of Florida
12) State takeouts very high—easier to win in other gambling ventures
13) Decoupling (the final nail in Florida, but not higher because this wasn’t a consideration a generation ago)
14) The deterioration of attention spans: gambling results too slow for people who want results now
15) The frontons in recent years did not cooperate on scheduling, which helped contribute to players not being able to make this a “career” once schedules and pay started getting cut. At the end, most players had other jobs and it was one more reason that players probably wouldn’t come over from Spain
16) Eliminating jai-alai youth programs. It isn’t coincidental that there were fewer competent American pros after the late 80’s which led to players in their 50s played at Calder in 2021. There weren’t alternatives because fewer people took the time to learn to play on their own and find a coach.
17) Inability of management to create good promotions. Some ideas over the years worked—but were not seen as being a “loss leader” to create new fans to management.
18) Lack of good camera angles to showcase jai-alai
19) Lack of interest in understanding of Web 2.0 or social media/YouTube. It shouldn’t have taken until 2018 to get this going. About 10 years ago Miami Casino blocked me for asking a question on jai-alai when they posted about some other sport. This could have been used as a showcase to stoke remaining interest.
20) Inability to showcase this as a sport with interesting programming. Sorry, but most jai-alai television programs were really not that interesting.
21) Connecticut banning under 18 in the mid-80’s, taking out future fans who never came when they were of age.
22) Visa issues. It was made tougher for players to come and play in the U.S. after 2001. Most overseas players in recent years were children of ex U.S. pros.
23) Management allowing the players to look trashy. Example: Miami’s uniforms were awful for years/ Milford had a similar issue. Helmets not uniform. Looked unprofessional to would be fans at the very least.
24) Management unwilling to handle moron fans in the audience who were big gamblers but turned off several other fans and potential fans with their attitude and trash talk.
25) Fewer marketable players or an inability to market players.