DANIA BEACH, Fla. - After big promises, Dania Jai Alai's casino has been a bust, and after just seven months it's shutting its doors for renovations and killing the 300 jobs it created.
The casino had some regulars, like Joe Eso, wondering if the $65 million project is dead for good.
"They may reopen, they may not," said Eso. "I don't think they will."
Casino representatives told Local 10 News they will finish the building's renovation and reopen in late 2015.
There's also been controversy regarding the new majority owner from Argentina in paying taxes -- in Florida and in Argentina.
"They turn right around, and the first thing they do is underpay their taxes by about $385,000," said attorney Bill Scherer.
In what it called a "computer glitch," the casino recently reimbursed taxpayers after under-reporting income. But according to published reports, majority owner Cristobal Lopez is also under federal investigation in Argentina where he had a close friendship with late president Nestor Kirchner. Kirchner handed him a long-term monopoly on slot machines in that country for alleged collusion with the federal regulators.
"Well I'm hoping it was an accident," said Scherer. "They said it was, but it looks like it may be a pattern."
Scherer and fellow attorney Mike Dutko Jr. are also suing the company and the city for allegedly violating land use laws. They claim the city is forgiving the company what Scherer said are millions in impact fees for what it plans ultimately to be a major development.
Dania Beach Mayor Walter Duke said despite the lawsuit, the lack of business and the Argentinean investigation, he remains quote "cautiously optimistic" about the project. The plan now is to renovate the main building before ultimately building a hotel and marina on the property.
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