After more than a year of planning, a new jai alai fronton and poker room is now open for business in Hamilton County, Florida. It’s an exciting day for a community that's been starved for new jobs.
The all new Hamilton Downs jai alai and poker room opened for business on Saturday. Card players packed in around tables, enjoying the first major business expansion in Hamilton County in decades.
"We have 142 employees now and we're probably going to grow that as we grow this business. In January we'll expand to simulcasting for the horse and dog races," said owner Glenn Richards.
Longtime Hamilton County residents are thrilled to see the jai alai players getting ready for their first matches. For the locals, it’s a sign that the chips are finally being stacked in their community's favor.
"There's been so much excitement and has been since the first discussions and the community has been behind it the whole time, hoping and doing what we could to promote it" said Elizabeth Barrett, a resident of Hamilton County.
Other locals have been excited because it’s providing new job opportunities, all because people from around the region now have a reason to visit and spend money.
"There are people going to come from Valdosta, and from Atlanta and from the north and down south, so everybody is excited," said Amy Bell, a new card dealer.
If the fronton owner and thousands of local Hamilton County residents are correct, the opening of this facility is just the start of something big for the region's economy. The Hamilton Downs facility is still planning to add a horse racing track in about two years.