Gulfstream Park bounces back

Mar 5, 2013 3:00 AM

Gulfstream Park took it up a big notch in January with live action up more than $3 million over Jan. 2012.

The dramatic 28.5 percent bump reflects the South Florida embrace of top horses, jockeys, trainers and good weather. GP’s overall handle, including inter-track and simulcast, is also up an impressive 9.7 percent compared to the rest of the state (up 4 percent).

Tampa Bay Downs’ on-track, live action was also up; however, overall action was just slightly down. Isle (Pompano Park) was up a solid 4 percent with inter-track and simulcast harness action. Live betting was slightly down.

Greyhound racing continued to slide, dipping 1 percent. Derby Lane (St. Petersburg), Sanford/Orlando and Mardi Gras (Hollywood/Fort Lauderdale) were marginally up – the others flat or down a bit.

Isle’s January card room take led the way with over $1.2 million in play followed by the combo Jacksonville/Orange Park totaling $1.6 million. Palm Beach Kennel Club had the third best tally. Miami Jai Alai’s three venues (Miami/Dania/Orlando) dipped slightly in January.

Hialeah Park’s Quarter Horse racing dropped nearly 20 percent. This could be due to the construction of the racino scheduled for a mid- summer open.

Recapping: Florida based pari-mutuel overall business is steady and trending up in January at 2 percent and card room play was up a healthy 5.6 percent.

The performance for the individual racinos in January 2013 is relatively weak. Casino Miami Jai Alai and Isle at Pompano Park enjoyed positive results. However, the four other facilities were down in NSR.

Pompano scored another healthy January up 5.6 percent from 2012 – even with a significant nearby tribal competitor, Seminole Coconut Creek Casino. The other two Broward operations, Gulfstream and Mardi Gras (Hollywood Dog Track), showed considerable drops from 2012: each down 12 percent. Magic City (Flagler Dog Track), buoyed by concerts and a new special events theater, was still down 7 percent. Calder Race Track and Casino was down a very modest 1.4 percent.

The overall January 2013 NSR for the racinos was up over $2 million, a tidy 6 percent increase over January 2012. This picture is skewed partly by the $4.6 million NSR for Casino Miami Jai Alai, which opened in early January 2012. The February numbers will be the first real comparison of year-to-year business.

Hialeah Race Course’s racino comes on line this summer and should deliver an additional increase in tax revenue for the state. The report suggests Hialeah’s entry may greatly impact nearby Magic City and Casino Miami Jai Alai – perhaps by as much as $2 million per month.

With the annual eight week state legislative session underway in Tallahassee, January’s Net Slot Revenue report presents an interesting snapshot of the condition of the pari-mutuel and racino business. Both are achieving progressively better tax revenues for the state. The decision by Florida senate and house leadership to spend two or more years researching before endorsing changes makes little sense in view of the continuing positive tax collection.

With Senator Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford commissioning a comprehensive study, the expansion matter appears to be tabled until next year’s session. That’s not carved in granite.

Thus far in the session no new gambling bills have been introduced. With the Seminole’s compact with the state continuing the tribal monopoly on table games expiring in 2015, coupled with the proliferation of the quasi legal Internet cafés, we suspect cash rich interests behind the scenes will employ amendments or resort to other statutory end runs to move the expansion initiative sooner than later.

Odds ’n’ ends

The Florida Gaming Congress held its annual meeting Feb. 25-26 at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood. The agenda included various discussions on Destination Florida, The Future of Race Track Gaming, Wall Street’s Focus on Gaming, Gaming and Public Policy, and Internet Gaming the U.S. (More in an upcoming column.)

Storied Tallahassee casino/gambling lobbyist Marc Dunbar served as moderator for the panel discussing Gaming and Public Policy. Dunbar jumped from the Pennington-Moore law firm to open a Tallahassee office for national gaming law leader Jones, Walker, Waechter et al.

With a very successful 10-year stint with the Pennington firm, Dunbar is among those credited for getting Florida into modern day gaming. His new assignment strongly suggests that the global gaming firms are developing a stronger day to day presence in the state capitol. Though their 2012 attempt at passing destination resort legislation failed, it clearly was a harbinger of things to come. Dunbar would be a key component in those “things.”

Meanwhile, the joint is jumpin’. Along A1A the throngs of families, spring breakers, and pretty people with their paparazzi all merge into Ocean Drive making Miami Beach one of the world’s winter havens. The celebrity sightings at Heat games, the Honda Classic, Doral, SoBe Wine and Food Fest, Miami International Film Festival – even at MLB Spring Training sites, are at an all time high.

There’s Leo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire at Wall; Halle Berry, Jay Z and Pit Bull at Prime 112; Jamie Foxx and Cedric the Entertainer at the Heat game; Ochocinqo and Jake Long at Hyde; Gloria and Emilio Estevez at Jungle Island; Mike Myers and wife at the Delano; Flash, Slash and Bosh everywhere and Tommy Lee Jones leading his team at Palm Beach International Polo.

The Florida Department of Transportation endorsed the River of Grass Greenway, a 75-mile pathway for non-motorized vehicles from the western edge of Miami-Dade County passing through Everglades National Park and ending in Collier County on the west coast.

In the future pedestrians, cyclists, joggers, birders would enjoy the flora and fauna (including alligators, panthers, etc.) along the route paralleling the Tamiami Trail. Funding is in the incipient stage and environmental concerns are being researched.

Baird Thompson and William Hutchinson bring a combined 80 years of gaming marketing and administration experience to Gaming Today. Contact them at [email protected].

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