Ocala Sales Company Buys Jai-Alai Fronton

An agreement struck Wednesday will soon allow the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. to offer year-round simulcasting on horses, greyhounds, and jai-alai. The Florida auction company has agreed to purchase the Ocala Jai-Alai fronton for $2.5 million. Under the terms of the agreement, fronton owner Florida Gaming will receive $2.25 million in cash and a five-year note for $250,000. OBS will pay $50,000 annually plus 8% interest on the note. The fronton will operate through an OBS subsidiary called Lake Fron Inc.

Prior to the sale, OBS could only offer 250 days of interstate simulcasting on Thoroughbred races. The sale company's OTB parlor was dark during the three months — June, July, and August — that Ocala Jai-Alai offered live performances. By buying the fronton and with help from a new law waiting for Gov. Jeb Bush's signature, OBS will be allowed to give itself permission to offer expanded simulcasting year-round.

The purchase also resolves a four-year legal battle. World Jai-Alai, the former owner of Ocala Jai-Alai, sued OBS because it was the only pari-mutuel business in Florida allowed to offer simulcasting without being required to run a live event. Florida Gaming inherited the lawsuit when it bought World Jai-Alai in January 1997. The case is before the Florida Supreme Court.

“The lawsuit gets settled,” said W. Bennett Collett, chairman and chief executive officer for Florida Gaming. “It really makes the issue moot as far as Florida Gaming is concerned.”

OBS president Tom Chiota could not be reached for comment.