Florida’s tax coffers profiting nicely from Racino revenues

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Florida’s tax coffers are profiting nicely from Racino revenues, continuing their increase over the same period from the previous year: up nearly 10 percent, gratis an additional $3.88 million in NSR.

With the current growth rate projected through the end of the 2013-14 fiscal year, NSR state wide could increase by more than 13.5 percent and potentially provide over $170 million in tax revenues. These are projections based on the 10-month Y-T-D, they could easily be higher.

Most important are the “new” operations: the majority of new cash comes from Hialeah Casino and Race Track and a very small amount from Dania Casino and Jai Alai. The usual monthly leader in NSR is Isle at Pompano. Surprisingly, Gulfstream Park is the only racino on the plus side for comparatives to last year. Casino Miami Jai Alai fell 15 percent once nearby Hialeah opened. Mardi Gras appeared to lose business to recently opened nearby Dania, down 8 percent.

Dania is off to an extremely slow start with NSR for April at $486,000. Through their first 70 days of operation the total is $1.6 million in NSR with an average per machine at $43. By contrast the highly successful Magic City (Flagler) average per machine is $261.

The decaying Dania Jai Alai fronton has a sporty new look. Five minutes from Fort Lauderdale Airport on US 1, the 50’s and 60’s popular sports palace succumbed to the advent of the lottery, NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and major college sports. Dania fell into disrepair and, though the games continued, became largely irrelevant. When poker joined the legal gambling landscape a decade ago, Dania found a new life line from cards to stay afloat.

Late to the Racino Dance, Boyd Gaming bought Dania several years back after voters in Broward County approved slots at race tracks and frontons. Boyd announced plans to convert most of the fronton to a major slot machine parlor. After 18 months nothing happened. Boyd abruptly sold their controlling interest in Dania to South American investors with other (Central and South American) casino holdings.

They’ve brought a strong effort to Dania and quickly. The landmark building had a soft grand opening in March. On Dania Beach Boulevard it sports a new bright and energetic look featuring the handsome new casino logo plus flags and bunting to add to a festive atmosphere.

Upon entering fans encounter a tastefully electric color scheme throughout. A series of slot banks in the first floor room are well arranged along spacious aisles and have mainly machines with new technology. With sights and sounds from Chumlee to Sex In the City and Wheel of Fortune, the preponderance are penny slots, but numerous 2- and 5-cent machines are well positioned, plus quarter, dollar and $5’s are easily findable. A small deli with well-priced salad and sandwich fare is unobtrusive but well spotted at the other end of the first floor.

Adjacent to the pari-mutuel simulcasting room, slot players focus on the spinning wheels as a few horse, dog and jai alai players bet the televised races on new LED big screens from Belmont to Will Rogers Downs. Friendly security people directed us to view the famous jai alai court, which is literally a step away through an archway from the slots.

The once vast auditorium is architecturally hidden or gone. All the seats for the game are literally up against the court, which provides a terrific view of the game. Jai alai frontons at Dania and Miami Jai Alai are now essentially TV studios with the skilled players bouncing the pelota off the tall walls – catching acrobatically with their cestas and flinging the ball back to the wall…but mainly for Internet and OTB gamblers at home or at simulcast facilities far away.

Up the escalator to the second floor is another comfortable layout with plentiful slots. Amid a dark magenta color scheme a mini-restaurant and sizable bar dominate one end of the floor. The poker room is accessed through the other end, separated but easily accessible from the slots. The sports bar has numerous giant LED screens for televised events. A variety of burgers, chicken tenders and salads dominate the menu. Our server was pleasant and attentive. As racino food in south Florida goes, Dania’s is average to good. And, the price is right.

Though there was only one poker table in action when we stopped by, our sources report it is busy, especially late night and on weekends. There are frequent tournaments and special events. The only negative we experienced was a dirty ladies restroom. When we called attention to it with the security guard, a cleaning crew was dispatched immediately.

Bottom line: Dania Jai Alai and Casino works; it is an attractive, well designed slot parlor. Prominently displayed signs clearly show the slots return 93.7 percent. However, on this particular afternoon the players were few and far between. The April statistics are not healthy. The advertising and marketing at Dania is not (yet) competing with the others. As a neighborhood casino, the fronton is in a largely transient area. It faces an uphill battle being in the midst of four well established competitors.

Odds N’Ends Seminole Chairman, James Billie at the 10th Anniversary celebration of the Hard Rock Casino announced the Tribe will spend $100 million in 2014/15. The bulk of it will go for upgrades to restaurants and hotel rooms, plus a new restaurant and enlarging the already enormous central pool and entertainment stage. Additionally a new hotel is in the works at the Seminole Immokalee Casino in southwest Florida (which surely will impact the Naples Fort Myers Dog Track).

David Beckham abandoned the port site for the proposed MLS stadium and is focusing on a spot next to the American Airlines Arena. Miami Dolphins owner, Stephen Ross has also abandoned his plan to get direct tax payer subsidy for upgrading Sun Life Stadium to Super Bowl ability. He is now negotiating with Miami Dade County for a compensation program upon delivering major events to the stadium such as the Super Bowl or similar economic “engines”. No county response as yet.

As we go to press: Reports indicate that Gulfstream Park and Calder Race Course have reached an agreement whereby Gulfstream enjoys a virtual monopoly for thoroughbred racing in South Florida. GP will host all racing 10 months a year. Calder will host 40 days managed by Gulfstream. Calder, owned by Churchill Downs will keep its popular new casino as will Gulfstream, owned by a Stronach subsidiary.

Deep South Miami Dade County the only part of the two county “racino alley” without a slot parlor, may be in luck. A decision by the First Federal Court of Appeals in Tallahassee, according to the Miami Herald, overruled regulators saying that Miami’s Magic City Casino (Flagler Dog Track) is eligible to obtain a summer jai alai permit.

Pending approval by the State Department of Parimutuel Wagering, this would open the door for a new poker/slot facility near Homestead and the Florida Keys. Sources indicate that the Magic City Casino has an option on land there.

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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