Florida gaming revenue already past 2013-14

May 26, 2015 3:00 AM

With 10 months in the books Net Slot Revenue and state tax revenues already exceed the 2013-2014 fiscal year totals. Florida will show records for both when the final numbers are posted – even without shuttered Dania Jai Alai and Casino and repositioned Calder Race Course.

April was solid: up 6.5% with over $46 million in NSR – a $2.8 million increase over 2014. Six of the seven operating racinos enjoyed increases; four double digit increases.

The usual leader, Isle at Pompano was up $1.4 million, 12.4%, however, the percentage leader went to Casino Miami Jai Alai, up 13.4% in the hotly contested Miami-Dade market.

Hialeah was slightly ahead of Magic City (Flagler) 10.2%. Both locations are clearly enjoying a second wind after the disappointing tourist season.

Interestingly Hialeah, Jai Alai and Magic City are all inner city operations that have historically competed with one another as pari-mutuels. Gulfstream Park’s casino also produced a healthy gain, up 5%, and Mardi Gras (Hollywood) got into the black, up 1%.

Calder’s casino was the only venue showing a decline for the month and it was substantial, over 13%, which was expected. The facility which straddles the county line is owned by Churchill Downs, which jettisoned all but several weeks of live racing/simulcasting last year in favor of concentrating on operating their casino…the real results will be in next year’s productivity.

Even with many Miami-Dade racinos lunging ahead by double digits the three Broward operations scored higher. Isle at Pompano continued with the largest dollar increase, which propelled the county to top Miami-Dade by over $500,000.

Broward’s venues were all up while Miami-Dade reported three up and one down. The strength of business in Broward vs. an additional three large, highly competitive and successful Seminole resort/casino properties is proof positive of the swelling gaming demographic and the draw of players from adjacent Palm Beach County.

Therein lies the elephant in the room. Quite clearly certain areas of the Sunshine State enjoy casino gaming and the ever increasing monthly results strongly suggest there’s plenty of room for more.

Apparently, Florida’s politics remain unwilling to effect a clear cut, predictable income stream from gambling to improve state coffers without spending a penny of tax payer dollars. Gambling has not been included as part of the upcoming special session June 1-20.

Poker rooms

While the highly visible slot business interests the media, the very profitable card rooms roll happily along. April numbers were up 5.7%, over $630,000, even with two fewer card rooms open vs. 2014. The Dania Jai Alai facility in extensive renovations and Calder closed following the agreement with Gulfstream. Both segments of the state’s Gross Receipts exceeded 2014: Daily play was up 5.4%, over $570,000, with tournament play up 9.7%, over $62,000.

Greyhound card rooms topped the list; jai alai and thoroughbreds dropped statistically – caused by the aforementioned closings. Harness and Quarter Horse card rooms scored pluses for the month. As usual, Jacksonville, Palm Beach and Isle at Pompano had the highest gross receipts. In tourney action Hialeah, Daytona-West Volusia and Sarasota led the pack.

Card rooms throughout Florida are prized operations for race tracks that generally have poor and/or dying pari-mutuel business. De-coupling or eliminating required live racing to operate poker is a self-fulfilling prophecy on many levels: saves jobs, removes/reduces animal activist interventions, and provides beneficial entertainment services among others. No action was taken in the legislature.

Odds n’ Ends

Former ESPN handicapper and veteran Miami area sports talk host, Hank Goldberg, 74, is back on the air daily in South Florida 3-7 p.m. on 640 AM radio. Goldberg has been a frequent visitor in Las Vegas, often taking part in seminars at Sunset Station during for NFL and horse racing.

Magic City Casino (Flagler Dog Track) located in the heart of residential Little Havana in downtown Miami scuttled plans to develop empty lots across the street until the Florida Legislature enacts new gambling parameters. The dog track has owned the lots since the 1950’s…Hialeah Casino completed the first step in a $60 million renovation opening the Kings Court VIP Poker Room.

Alabama’s Poarch Indians, which operate a satellite racino operation in Florida’s panhandle at Gretna, are pitching Montgomery lawmakers with a similar compact to Florida’s Seminoles. The Poarch Tribe is unofficially offering $250 million annually in exchange for allowing table games at its three casinos plus state wide gambling exclusivity.

Jacksonville Business Journal reports lobbyist earnings during the legislative session again were led by gambling and health care concerns. For instance: Las Vegas Sands paid $92,000 to Capital City Partners, while Genting paid $75,000 to Ballard Partners. Total return on their investments thus far is 0.

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