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American Gaming Association reported 16% rise in gaming

May 15, 2012 3:00 AM

Your humble correspondents are taking to the highways and byways of the state and the tropics to update our research on the gaming industry and to watch the NCAA Lacrosse Tournament.

However, there are several morsels of important news:

The Miami Herald and Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel both led their May 10 editions with the news that the commercial (non tribal) gaming revenues for the January through April period in South Florida were up 16% in 2011.

The report, issued by the American Gaming Association, summarized the revenues for the five gaming venues (Pompano,Mardi Gras, Gulfstream, Magic City and Calder). Slots accounted for more than 60% of the casino revenues with the (Pompano) Isle Capri leading the pack, followed by Magic City (Flagler Dog Track), Calder, Mardi Gras (Hollywood Dog Track) and Gulfstream Park.

The state captured $143million in taxes from the five casinos. The total take of $381million (vs. $329 million in 2010) is dwarfed by the tribal casino revenues in the State. Estimates of the Seminole etc. gross gaming revenue annually approach more than $2 billion.

The general rise in revenues has been attributed to everything from a superior tourist season, strong attendance at the big annual pro and college events (Orange Bowl, Sony Ericsson, Doral, Wrestlemania etc.) fan support of the successful Miami Heat and Florida Panthers, a slightly better overall economy to an expected slow and steady acceptance of the new gaming industry.

As some racinos near the 5 year mark, the overall South Florida gaming picture becomes slightly clearer and more predictable.

As the big casino/destination conglomerates eyeball Florida, now the fourth largest grossing state revenue from gaming in the country, there have been some recent developments.

Noteworthy is Genting’s footprint for their huge resort in downtown Miami along Biscayne Bay has been reduced. The company previously announced that it would present a bid to acquire the adjacent Miami Dade County Public School administration complex (and parking lots).

Genting rescinded its interest in that property recently stating that it was scaling back plans for the project. Last March the State legislature voted down the casino portion of their planned Resorts World Resort. The School Board is anxious to unload their longtime downtown property which encompasses some of the most valuable land in the county. They are now opening bids to other developers.

On another front – things are heating up at Mardi Gras Racino. According to the Herald, 23 protestors out of a group of 100 were arrested there May 8 on charges of trespassing. Many of those involved were ex workers and their supporters complaining about what they consider illegal efforts by the casino to union bust.

Protestors campaigned for Mardi Gras to reinstate fired workers who attempted to unionize. Several of the protestors were members of Unite Here, a union that represents 5000-plus casino, stadium and hospitality workers in South Florida. The claim by the workers has been filed with the NLRB. Mardi Gras management and legal team is attempting to resolve the issues.

The Magic City (Flagler Dog Track) and City of Miami/Miami Dade County are engaged in a kerfuffle being argued by long time uberlobbyist Ron Book.

Mr. Book who is employed as lobbyist by both Flagler and the County is arguing on behalf of Magic City that signs at the new Miami Marlins stadium touting the Miccosukee Indian tribal gaming casino are illegal. Prior to the referendum allowing slots at Dade County racetracks, the City/County made a deal with (then) Flagler to receive a % of the gaming revenues – in exchange for which the City/County agreed to permit the slots. The vote passed and the city/county began receiving a slice of the action.

According to Mr. Book, a clause in that agreement stated that no “competing” gaming entity advertising or signage would be allowed in any public City/County facility (which the stadium is). Magic City is by far the closest gaming venue to the new ballpark and provides parking and a shuttle bus for fans.

The Indian reservation is some 10 miles to the west. The nuance being that Indian gaming at Miccosukee offers Video Lottery Terminals VLT’s(pari-mutuel machines) while Magic City houses bonafide Vegas style slot machines.

Outcome TBA.

Racinos report

The month of April continued to be positive for the slot revenue at all the facilities. The overall NSTs were up approx. 7.6% which is over 2.6 million dollars. With Miami Casino & Jai Alai racking up a whopping 4.6 million in NST, they continue to add to the market.

Magic City and Pompano were also up, but Gulfstream, Mardi Gras and Calder were lower than the 2011 numbers. It is still relevant to expect the Miami market area to expand especially if a major operation would enter the area.

Hialeah Park expects to open in the fall and will add more opportunities for players. However, the sizable and locally affluent southern part of Miami-Dade County is still an untapped resource for slot development. The other area unaddressed at this time should be when an outside casino company comes to Miami and offers options to the high end demo which is not served at all by the current properties.

The State’s card rooms are flourishing. The comparative numbers show that several places like Daytona Beach Kennel Club and Poker Room are handling more in their poker operation than in all their live, intertrack and simulcast wagering combined.

The card rooms are very profitable to the track operators; Gretna Racing, the quarter horse operation in north Florida, through March has generated $41,714 in live racing operation and $984,304 in gross card room receipts.

In July we will have the yearly numbers for the racing operations in the State and prepare a comparative analysis of the year’s business.