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South Florida a-track-ting money statewide

Jun 19, 2012 3:00 AM

Even though the fiscal year in Florida for the pari-mutuel industry does not end until June 30, we thought it might be interesting to take a look at the numbers and how they are setting up based on totals through April 30.

More Casino Industry ArticlesWith a big push for Statewide gaming about to commence, understanding where the facilities are by region and how they are doing will define the untapped resources major casino operators are savoring. The pari-mutuel handle is inclusive of on-track and inter-track wagering. The cardroom revenue is regulated by the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering and is never part of gaming revenue in Florida reports.

First THE FLORIDA PANHANDLE: 5 permits. PM handle: $3,067,833.00, Cardroom: $9,170,556.00. NE FLORIDA: 5 permits. PM handle: $53,715,535.00, Cardroom: $24,966,926.00. CENTRAL FLORIDA: 10 permits. PM handle: $148,845,737.00, Cardroom: $27,020,820.00. SOUTH FLORIDA: 16 permits. PM handle: $520,728,776.00, Cardroom: $48,193,148.00.


The overriding conclusion is that the majority of pari-mutuel business is in south Florida. However, observe that the five permits in northeast Florida have cardroom play of only $234,475.00 less than the 16 permits in south Florida. It would seem logical that the sheer number of operations would preclude the northeast Florida facilities from being that competitive. The difference is simple: Slots at the Miami-Dade and Broward County racino facilities and their Native American competition are where the gamers go to spend their dollars.

The Prognosis one or two years out?

The five permits in the Panhandle are located in primarily unpopulated rural areas of the state. Three greyhound tracks, two jai alai frontons and one barrel racing/quarter horse permit have limited capability for live racing and one, Hamilton Jai Alai, has only handled $2.00 of live pari-mutuel handle through April 2012.

Clearly Hamilton is strictly open for its cardroom, which has handled $513,667.00 through April or 5.6% of the area’s total cardroom handle. In the near future Georgia residents will jump on I-75, head south and enjoy a weekend of poker in north Florida.

While the modest monies handled may seem slight, the reason they continue to operate is their expectation of being a casino close to the Georgia border. The three greyhound tracks have operated for decades and without handling 83.7% of the cardroom revenue they would have closed long ago.

They also hold out hope (and not without good reason) for hosting some form of slots and maybe Las Vegas-style gaming. Three of the five northeast Florida permits are held by one entity, the Jacksonville Greyhound group. They have a virtual monopoly with Georgia to the north and a distance of 95 miles south to any competitor: Daytona Kennel Club.

Daytona, with two permits, and in a considerably smaller marketplace than J’ville, handles almost 37% of the cardroom action and 22% of the pari-mutuel handle – another case of the cardroom making the permit more viable.

The Central Florida area encompasses an area from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. The 10 permits include Tampa Bay Downs, the resurgent thoroughbred track outside Tampa, six greyhound track permits and three jai alai permits.

The one-time Florida leader in greyhound racing handle, Derby Lane still is the major player in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. Handling over 19% of the pari-mutuel business operating its own meet and now operating the live dates of Tampa Dog Track (through an agreement); it also has 28% of the cardroom business.

Tampa still operates its own inter-track wagering and cardroom business. There was speculation that Tampa was pursuing a move to the east to build a simulcast/cardroom facility but to date that has not occurred. These numbers appear healthy, but, are negatively impacted by the glitzy Tampa Hard Rock Casino, which has the only gaming destination facility in the area.

Sarasota is an hour south of Tampa and the antiquated dog track remains a benchmark of greyhound racing’s past. Open during the winter season after numerous losing summer attempts, it has a respectable report of 5.4% of pari-mutuel handle and 16% of cardroom business.

In mouse land its competitors the dog track, operating two permits, is operated under the wing of racino giant Penn Gaming. Surprisingly, it does not yet have a cardroom and without undue speculation it’s logical to presume the owners are awaiting full scale casino approval.

The Orlando Jai Alai is also open in the area and does marginal business without a cardroom. The same scenario is probable as the dog track. Also, the Walt Disney Company has been a major player throughout the years trying to halve the spread of gaming in the state and more specifically Central Florida (their home).

Ocala Jai Alai, about an hour north of Orlando, operates virtually as a cardroom. With $80 in total pari-mutuel handle through April and, $3,125,233 in cardroom action, 11.5% of central Florida’s business, it is positioned to do well if gaming expands.

Very similar to Ocala, Melbourne Greyhound Track does run a live racing season handling $162,138 to date, and has a respectable $3,462,707 or 12.8% of Central Florida’s cardroom business.

Finally, Ft. Pierce Jai Alai, similar to Ocala and Melbourne, operates a short live winter season with a bit over $300,000 and $2,465,969 in cardroom business.

The South Florida operations are comparatively larger in scope both by handle numbers and operations. They deserve a column of their own, which will be forthcoming shortly.

One sure bet, filtering all these $ and %’s there is no doubt gaming is here; it’s everywhere, and it’s thriving. A far cry from what Governor Jeb Bush pontificated on his watch several decades ago…there will be no more expansion of gaming in the state.


(Note: Florida Gaming Report is exclusively prepared for GamingToday by Thompson/Hutchinson & Associates, the “Casino Doctors” based in Miami, Fla., with offices in Philadelphia and Tucson. The principals, Baird Thompson and William Hutchinson are veteran gaming executives and consultants with clients in the pari-mutuel and casino industry.