Openings and Closings

New Concert Venue Stage 954 at the Casino at Dania Beach Opens This Week

You should be able to follow this one fairly easily: The average slot player is at least 50 years old. In addition to slots, casinos like to offer entertainment — including music. Ergo…

The new casino at Dania Beach will focus on classic rock, with some comedy thrown in.

The first ticketed act, Jefferson Starship, is set for February 27 at the Casino at Dania Beach, which opened last month and features Stage 954, a new concert hall with 850 seats. Foreigner and Air Supply are booked later this spring.

The Havenick family owns one-fourth of what is officially titled the Casino @ Dania Beach, which they bought in 2014 after converting their Flagler Dog Track into Magic City Casino in Miami in 2011. Magic City Casino features Stage 305, with classic rock and other entertainment — a model officials say they will follow at the Dania Beach location.

“We want our casinos to offer a whole day of entertainment,” CEO Scott Savin says. “Our whole approach at Dania is for visitors to come in, go to a concert, watch some jai alai, and play some slots.”

Because he now oversees two venues, Savin says he can offer bands more lucrative deals and book them for two nights: one in Broward County and one in Miami-Dade. “Since we first opened Magic City Casino, we’ve said that we’ve wanted to focus on music, especially classic rock,” Savin says. “This way, we can now make it worth their while.”

For example, Jefferson Starship will first play at Magic City on Friday, February 26. Quick reminder here: This is a retooling of the band that launched in 1965 as Jefferson Airplane, when the term “psychedelic rock” ascended, only to quickly dissipate. Jefferson Starship came together in 1974 and went on to produce such songs as “Jane,” “White Rabbit” and “Count on Me.” They’re dealing with some grief currently, as Jefferson Airplane cofounder and Starship mainstay Paul Kantner died January 28 at age 74.)

Savin says other music acts will perform free shows, including local bands on Fridays and Saturdays on a smaller stage, near the slot machines. Smash Mouth, which recently faced backlash for booking a show at the controversial SeaWorld, will play a free concert at Stage 954 on March 5.

Stage 954 was built almost from scratch and is part of the casino’s $60 million makeover. In the old days of Dania Jai-Alai (before the slots), patrons watched jai alai matches from more than 5,000 auditorium seats, while poker games quietly took place in a remote spot on the second floor. That second-floor spot, with a separate entryway and imposing doors, is where you'll now find Stage 954.

The casino is the last of four horse tracks, dog tracks, and jai alai frontons — called pari-mutuels — to expand into a casino with slots and is almost ten years behind everyone else. Gulfstream Park, Mardi Gras Casino, and the Isle Casino and Racing all had slots by 2007. But the Casino @ Dania Beach is already catching up as far as music programming: Mardi Gras and the Isle only have about five ticketed concerts per year, and Gulfstream has none.

The casino has opened a quick-service deli, Toaster’s and Roasters, near the poker room. A high-end buffet, Luxe, is planned to open near the end of February for the official grand opening.

Gary Puckett & the Union Gap are booked for Saturday at Dania but not Friday at Magic City Casino. Their signature hits include “Young Girl,” “Lady Willpower,” and “Woman Woman,” all from 1967-74. Hey, we've said all along the theme for these shows is classic rock.

The acts:
Jefferson Starship, with Gary Puckett & The Union Gap, at 8 p.m. Feb. 27. Tickets cost $35-$55
Smash Mouth, 8 p.m. March 5. Free.
Foreigner, 8 p.m. March 11. Tickets cost $40 to $100.
Ralphie May, 9 p.m. March 18. Tickets 
cost $40.
Gabriel Iglesias, 9 p.m. April 1. Tickets 
cost $40.
Air Supply, 8 p.m. April 16. Tickets 
cost $35 to $90.

VIP tables for four typically run around $100 per person. The casino is at 301 E. Dania Beach Blvd. Get ticket info at or for Stage 305 go to

Email Nick Sortal | Twitter: @NickSortal 
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Nick Sortal is South Florida’s expert journalist when it comes to the gambling scene. He covered the openings, expansions, poker tournaments, entertainment, and human-interest facets of the industry for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel from 2007 until taking a buyout in November 2015, capping a 30-year career that included state and national awards and features about naked yoga. He now writes a weekly column for the Miami Herald and also reports about gambling on his site, The Southern Illinois native worked for papers in St. Louis and Indianapolis before joining the Sun Sentinel in 1985. He likes triathlons, country music, basketball, and bragging about his family.
Contact: Nick Sortal