Florida's 2013 totals stumble out of the gate

Apr 2, 2013 3:00 AM

The total numbers for the state’s February racino business (slots), no matter what spin, were down. Ditto the pari-mutuel and card room businesses.

On the racino front, with the exception of Casino Miami Jai Alai,  when compared with February 2012 all the facilities had negative Net Slot Revenue. Keeping in mind 2012 was a leap year, February 2013 average per day/per racino was down almost $32,000. The overall NSR was down 5.59% and the tax revenue from the play was $13.6 million less than 2012.

Some other connective numbers include: 23 less machines per day averaging $4 less daily revenue per machine. State legislators will certainly consider the downward arc as they research the potential for expansion and regulation. Tribal numbers are not included in any of these reported numbers.

Individual monthly racino numbers are one of many indicators for each operation; however, the numbers are indeed revealing. Casino Miami Jai Alai was up 12%; significant because it was their first year-to-year comparison for an entire month. Magic City, even though down, strengthens each month – February was only 4% under 2012.

Gulfstream and Mardi Gras, compared to 2012, were down by 12% and 10% respectively. Long time racino leader Isle at Pompano was off only 1%. Calder Casino was off 16% – a significant amount for any operation; however, of note, the Calder 2012 number was exceptional.

When Hialeah comes on line with slots this summer and Dania Jai Alai shortly thereafter, there’s bound to be some noticeable changes in play. Hialeah is near Miami Jai Alai; Dania close to Mardi Gras and Seminole Hard Rock.

Some operators complain that the reinstatement of higher payroll tax has negatively impacted their operations. Perhaps, but the racino decreases are disconcerting considering a steadily improving economy in Florida, continued housing starts, improving tourism, job creation and, for the first time in four years, more people moving into the state than leaving.

The two-county area, which houses the legal five racinos, plus three major tribal casinos, and the two new casinos opening soon, may well be hitting saturation.

Pari-mutuels Feb. 2013: The middle dates always coveted by each Florida pari-mutuel permit holder produced uninspiring results. The overall handle is off 3% from 2012…not very impressive for the winter racing and wagering schedule. For the first two months of 2013 the total pari-mutuel handle is virtually even with 2012. The same scenario is true for the card rooms – almost a carbon copy of 2012. Cardroom business has remained static for quite some time.

On both fronts there is little, if any, growth. March is historically the best bet winter month.

Odds n’ ends

Genting is proceeding to develop a part of its gigantic midtown Miami bayside footprint they acquired several years ago – primarily for a destination casino resort. Though the initial casino project was shot down by the legislature (for now), the company plans to wreck the old Miami Herald building and turn the site into a 500-room hotel managed by a luxury brand, several hundred luxury condos, a 50-foot wide, two-tiered broad baywalk with restaurants and bistros.

Genting managers tout a “phased in” approach to the project. With the legislature rejecting any gaming related legislation in favor of a “study” of gaming this year, Genting’s move is bold but logical. There’s plenty of land under their ownership to accommodate a state-of-the-art, world-class mega casino.

A recent visit to the Isle of Capri Casino and Pompano Harness Track confirms it is the “star” in the Florida racino constellation. The stand-alone casino is a busy place with a largely senior citizen audience pounding away on the slots. The poker room had a waiting list at dinnertime on an early Saturday evening.

The ambiance is Casino 101 – comfortable, well lit, wide variety of predominantly new machines, carefully integrated background music and a fleet of pleasant security-assistants throughout the floors. With plentiful adjacent parking, proximity to the main harness track building, attentive service, and in the geographic central of the main demographic, it is no wonder Isle continues to lead the pack.

Many state legislators awash in cash donations from the bogus charity Allied Veterans are unloading their tainted cash to legit charities fast. Allied, nothing more than a front for Internet cafés’ money laundering and racketeering operations across the state, was a cash cow for 40-plus owner/operators.

The scheme grossed $300 million, of which $1.4 million went to legislators who for years successfully squashed attempts to regulate the cafés. Associated Press uncovered a second bogus Internet café charity based in South Carolina. The Childrens’ Cancer Cooperative shares an attorney with Allied and has ties to over 200 additional Internet cafés in Florida. A bill to outlaw all Internet cafés and their illegal slot machine lookalikes is barreling through Tallahassee with virtually no opposition.

The latest tactics of Dolphins owner Steven Ross to sway public funding for renovating Sun Life Stadium makes it contingent on landing either Super Bowl L or LI. Plus the team will pay for the referendum should the state allow.

The vote in Miami-Dade County is scheduled for May 7 or 14 and will cost $5-7 million. NFL Super Bowl selection is scheduled May 22. Tracking polls have public sentiment extremely opposed.

The March 18 Heat vs. .Celtics game on Sun Sports and ESPN produced a whopping 17.5 rating that eclipsed the average rating for regular season Dolphins games.

Actor Tommy Lee Jones put his Wellington polo ranch on sale for $27 million. He has a similar property in Texas. Pro golfer Bubba Watson purchased the Tiger Woods Orlando-area (Thanksgiving debacle) house. Located in the Isleworth neighborhood of Windemere, the house is one of many there owned and occupied by celeb athletes. Woods, Rory McIlroy, Greg Norman and others are now north Palm Beach County residents.

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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