Parties settle legal dispute over Ocala Jai Alai

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 16, 2007 at 11:47 p.m.

OCALA — A five-year long legal dispute between Second Chance Jai Alai and Ocala Breeders' Sales Company over who should operate Ocala Jai Alai is settled.

"Both sides agreed it was better to reach an agreement than keep fighting," said OBS lawyer Dock Blanchard Tuesday. "We both agreed (Second Chance) would lease it from us for five years ... with renewal options."

At issue in a lawsuit between the two was the signature page of a disputed lease contract that Second Chance said gave it the right to operate Ocala Jai Alai, originally purchased by an affiliate company of OBS for $2.5 million in 2000.

Second Chance, which wanted $60 million in damages, claims its co-manager, Fred Harney, and former OBS chairman Norman Casse, signed a $3 million lease agreement in January 2000 during a dinner meeting at the former Ocala Jockey Club restaurant.

In court filings, OBS said Casse signed nothing more than a letter of intent and charges that Harney attached that signature page to the unsigned lease contract.

Blanchard would not give details of the settlement but Second Chance Jai Alai said in its original court filings that its deal with OBS was to pay the company $300,000 annually to operate the business for up to 15 years. Second Chance was asking for the $60 million as part of the original lawsuit in anticipation of Ocala Jai Alai being allowed to operate slot machines in its facility. That never happened, though.

Second Chance lawyers did not return telephone calls for this story.

As with the OBS facility on Southwest 60th Avenue, Ocala Jai Alai in Orange Lake also accepts pari-mutuel wagering, collecting millions of dollars annually. Blanchard would not say how much the jai alai fronton collects in wagering, though. Both sides conducted exhaustive pre-trial efforts during the past few years, taking more than 60 depositions.

Ocala Jai Alai general manager Dale Popp would also not comment about the deal between OBS and Second Chance nor if Second Chance was planning to make changes to Ocala Jai Alai.

Fred Hiers can be reached at fred.hiersstarbanner and (352) 867-4157.

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