Florida slots numbers a bit deceptive

Apr 28, 2015 3:00 AM

Florida’s racino March slots numbers are a bit deceptive. They were off $148,000 or .03% if the shuttered Dania Jai Alai and Slots is included. However, the $51 million Net Slot Revenue was the highest for the fiscal year without Dania’s NSR.

March produced a small gain of $980,000, up 1.9%, a decent increase but far less than many previous months. Reasons?

One consideration could be the loss of an additional weekend like 2014; or possibly a systemic problem that incorporates demographics, miserable “snowbird” traffic, and perhaps several racinos simply don’t reap rewards from the nominal seasonal marketplace. It may be an oddball bump with an early Easter, and unseasonably warm weather.

The racino leader as usual, Isle at Pompano, produced NSR in excess of $15 million, which translates into a 5.9% gain. However, of interest: Hialeah Race Track & Casino topped $6 million in NSR, up 14.8%, and Miami Casino & Jai Alai was up 3.3%. Gulfstream, with its big graded stakes races and large crowds during their “Championship Season” in full swing, was also up and, as expected, Magic City bounced back significantly with NSR over $7.1 million.

Mardi Gras and Calder were down 12.3% and 3.4% respectively. Interestingly, Mardi Gras, the closest location to shuttered Dania, does not appear to be benefitting from that closure, falling below $5 million in NSR during their peak season in Hollywood, Fla.

Calder, in its new configuration without any winter thoroughbreds, dropped below their 2014 $7 million plateau. A likely reason for that drop: Seminole Gaming with two casinos in the heart of the Mardi Gras and Calder marketplace adversely affected their business.

March card rooms

Florida’s poker room business was a bit soft again. Total gross receipts, which included tournaments, were over $12.5 million versus 2014’s $12.9 million or a drop of 2.7%. While the monthly drop was notable, the yearly total through 9 months was off only 1%. Interestingly, in the March numbers there was a drop in tournament receipts of more than $48,000 from March 2014. Again, early Easter, unseasonably warm weather…hardly a critical drop.

The three northeast Florida operations (Jacksonville, Orange Park and Daytona) accounted for 25% of the total gross receipts. Jacksonville leads all card rooms with a take exceeding $1.4 million; Isle at Pompano topped $1.2 million and Palm Beach over $1.1 million. Daytona at $972,000 and Naples at $822,000 fill out the top 5.

The Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel’s Nick Sortal reports Hialeah Park’s card room has added an additional 11 tables in their expanded area. They have set it up to attract “high limit” players, naming the area “King’s Court” to maintain their lead over Miami-Dade County rivals Magic City (Flagler) and Casino Miami (Jai Alai).

As the nine month mark of the 2014-15 fiscal year on gaming concludes, here’s a review and projection: NSR has risen and consequently tax revenue generated to the state increased, too. Through March, racino NSR was over $389 million – ahead of 2014 by $16 million or 4.5%. State tax revenue increased to over $136 million – up almost $5.9 million.

Continuing gains will certainly reflect strong slot play and likely make the 2014-15 fiscal year reporting period a record.

The legislature

With only several days to go in the 2015 legislative session the future of gambling expansion remains undecided. Typically, all things gambling in the Sunshine State are decided right at the finale…or during a special session when voters are not as attentive.

With the prospect that the Seminole Compact may not be renewed, or only extended briefly (which the tribe will likely nix), the entire situation is in a glitzy stalemate. The anti-gaming chemistry at the top of the two houses, coupled with Gov. “Flip Flop” augurs minimal, if any, movement.

House Bill 1233 would allow Palm Beach Kennel Club and Naples Fort Myers Dog Track to add slots, among many other changes to Florida’s gaming and pari-mutuel business. Both track owners recently used strong advertising campaigns and smartly choreographed elections within those counties to win popular approval by wide margins.

Both challenged (unsuccessfully) the courts to permit slots. (State Attorney General Pam Bondi ruled against them.) Both tracks counted on the legislature approving expansion, hoping they’d have the upper hand with their respective county’s (Lee and Palm Beach) voter approvals already in hand.

Senate Regulated Industries chairman, Senator Rob Bradley, realized the need for more time to develop a companion Senate bill (proposed SB7088) by extending the existing Seminole compact for an additional year.

While Bradley proposed his bill as close followers of the Florida legislature predicted correctly, a mish mash of unrelated amendments greatly expanded and clouded his initial proposal. This bill passed committee 7-5, although Senator Bradley voted against his own bill.

However, following Florida form, SB7088 is now so packed with complicated and often illogical amendments that its chances of survival in the main Senate are highly unlikely.

Many national scribes seized upon these glitzy and sexy amendments, reporting that Florida was poised to enjoy an explosion of gambling.

Odds n’ ends

Tampa Bay Rays owner Stu Sternberg won’t negotiate a revised lease on Tropicana Field. He indicated a preference to keep his Rays in the Bay area, but it was becoming increasingly difficult without luxury boxes and stronger fan support.

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