Florida gaming and pari-mutuel figures promising

Jan 29, 2013 3:00 AM

The end of the calendar year is the mid-point for Florida 2012-2013 pari-mutuel and gaming.

These results offer a fair estimate of the upcoming six months, but more importantly provide the state legislature concrete financial information as committee meetings begin now heralding the main session in March.

Paramount is the definition of what levels gambling provides in tax revenues for the fragile Florida economy. Parenthetically, these trends are integral in lawmakers’ support or rejection options for gaming expansion.

The pari-mutuel side of the industry produced some very positive results. The change of live racing dates with Gulfstream Park’s early opening Nov. 1 proved very profitable to the state, the horsemen and track operators.

Last year with Gulfstream and Tropical at Calder splitting November the total was nearly $30.6 million. This year it was nearly $35.6 million, an increase of 16%. Led by those tremendous gains, the overall state play was up 4%. Other track figures were down considerably. A weakness in tourism and general economic malaise in certain areas may be the main reason.

Cardroom/poker business showed a small gain (3 percent) with no indication of a trending gain. It’s possible the cardroom play has leveled off…and may grow in small increments going forward.

On the casino side, the yearlong increase continues and the slots are producing good tax revenues. The overall business levels show an extra $16 million. However, the gain is directly related to the addition of the long awaited Casino Miami Jai Alai.

Without CMJA’s 27 million in Net Slot Revenue the other operations were down over $11 million or 6.1 percent. Magic City and Calder would have reported higher NSR without the new CMJA competition.

The six-month comparison of the five racinos shows only Isle Casino at Pompano Park up (1.5 percent).The four other properties were individually down at least 7 percent. Gulfstream, partially due to an aquarium accident, was down the most at 15 percent.

The legislature’s proposed moratorium on gaming expansion should allow a more detailed examination of the industry and where it heads in the years ahead. But, in Tallahassee anything goes.

The Seminole gaming brain trust fired an introductory salvo across the bows of the racinos in late January. At their three local tribal casinos a huge promotion featured a Jan. 26 $1 million give away in a 24-hour period. The strategy to capture players from competing racinos and to pad its market share is Machiavellian.

The expected continued diminished revenues in racinos augmented by this tribal cash promotion would reinforce their downward trend. This scenario plays out just prior to the state legislature going into session. Another consequence, aside from questioning racino gaming expansion would be an in-between-the-lines effort to fortify the Seminole compact due for renewal in 2015.

Odds n’ Ends

Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria pulled the plug on team president David Sampson’s weekly radio show with Dan Le Batard. The oft entertaining, sometimes controversial show generally revolved around Sampson reviewing current movies (he’s a film buff) and occasional baseball talk with callers. Sampson didn’t dodge questions.

Bernie Kosar, UM QB, NFL star and longtime south Florida resident is on the mend after some serious health issues. His presence on the local sports scene has long been welcome. Kosar was part owner of the NHL Florida Panthers at one time and owned several restaurants around town.

Miami Herald sports columnist Barry Jackson reports the major reason behind the Marlins salary dump was response to ownership’s grossly miscalculated income projections from the new stadium – the trickle down effect: 20-30 percent fewer than anticipated fans led to 20-30 percent lower merchandise/food sales and 20-30 percent less parking revenues.

Jackson reported paid attendance figures that approached 28,000 average (18th in the majors), though accurate, did not reflect the number of paid bodies in seats on a nightly basis. That number was closer to 18,000 average, which even further exacerbated the dramatic decreases in merchandise sales, parking, etc. 2012 season tickets, announced at 15,000, were actually 12,000 and on pace for under 7,000 for the upcoming season – another significant miscalculation.

Dolphins owner Steven Ross and CEO Mike Dee are pushing for a $400 million renovation of Sun Life Stadium, targeting a canopy over the new, more intimate seating along with new lighting and a bundle of upgrades around the campus.

Ross says he is prepared to pay half the freight and cover cost overruns if the state legislature will OK a bill upping the current Miami-Dade bed tax from 6 to 7 percent (the 1 percent to go for stadium improvements). Opponents are skeptical the upgrade will guarantee more Super Bowls and potentially other major sporting and entertainment events considering bypassing the 30-year-old building.

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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