The new Calder Casino at Calder Casino & Race Course will open its doors for guests for the first time Jan. 22 at 9 a.m. as a result of passing its review by the State of Florida Jan. 21.
According to a release, the expansive single-level facility (104,000 square feet total) boasts more than 1,200 Class III slot machines. The Calder Casino is the only casino at a Thoroughbred horse track in Miami-Dade County and is the second pari-mutuel facility in the county to offer slots.
Voters approved a referendum to allow slot machines at the then three existing pari-mutuel facilities in Miami-Dade in January 2008. Calder broke ground on the new facility last June 3, and completed construction earlier this month.
Churchill Downs Inc., Calder’s parent, estimated that the cost of building the casino was $85 million.
Gulfstream Park, eight miles east of Calder, opened a casino in 2006. Gulfstream, which is in Hallandale Beach in Broward County, has 850 Class III Las Vegas-style slot machines in its casino.
Miami-Dade and Broward are the only Florida counties in which pari-mutuels can have casinos. Gulfstream is one of three Broward pari-mutuels that have casinos with Las Vegas-style slots.
Calder will join the four other South Florida pari-mutuels in paying a 50% state tax on slot machine revenues.
During the first three full years of its slots operation, Calder will pay a minimum of $14.375 million to the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association for purses and breeders’ awards.
That will generate about $4.8 million per year for the horsemen’s groups.
Under a slots agreement they signed with Calder in July 2008, the two horsemen’s groups are guaranteed a combined 6.75% of annual pre-tax slots revenue for the remainder of a 10-year term.
Under its contracts with the two groups, Gulfstream pays 7.5% of pre-tax slots revenues for purses and 0.75% to the state's Thoroughbred breeding program.
The horsemen’s groups sought a guaranteed amount for early years at Calder because slots revenues have been disappointing during early years at Gulfstream and several other pari-mutuels, said Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida HPBA.
However, play at Gulfstream’s slot machines has improved steadily. It had pre-tax slots revenues of just under $41.8 million during Florida’s fiscal year that ended June 30, 2009. That generated a payment of just over $3 million to the Florida HPBA and Florida TBOA.
Gulfstream’s slots revenues are running at a similar pace during the current fiscal year.
For the horsemen’s groups, all Calder slots revenues are allocated for overnight races.
That will add about $30.000 a day for each race day in 2010.
“They have built a very nice casino,” Stirling said. “We hope it will produce some good revenues for racing.”
Trainer Barry Rose, a director of the Florida HBPA, said the increase in daily purses should help Calder and horsemen “because it will give us a purse structure that is more competitive with tracks in other states that have slot machines.”
Rose hopes that will help reverse the recent years’ trend of some owners sending horses from Calder to other states.
“But we still need to get a more competitive tax rate,” Rose said.
Tracks in most other states have slots taxes lower than 50%.
The Seminole Tribe of Florida, which has a casino six miles from Calder, has been making payments to the state that some studies place around 15% of slots revenues.
The Florida HPBA, other racing organizations and pari-mutuels are hoping that the Legislature this year will reduce the slots tax rate to 35%.
The layout of the facility includes an easy access entrance and parking and valet service; three new restaurants (Twin Spires Tavern, Tropical Gardens Buffet, and Front Runners) and center casino bar; a VIP room and exclusive High Limit slots parlor; and a 70 flat-screen digital monitors.
The casino is loacted on the Miami-Dade/Broward County Line, right on NW 27th Avenue (University Drive) and just north of Dolphin Stadium.
Hundreds of construction workers were employed by Calder and CDI over the last seven months to complete the casino project. Calder has also nearly doubled its full-time workforce to support the new business, with new jobs for over 400 South Floridians.
The Calder Casino will be open every day from 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. and 24 hours on weekends. Calder guests can also wager on live Thoroughbred simulcast races or play Texas Hold ‘Em, Omaha, and 7-Card Stud at Studz Poker Club every day and night of the week. Studz Poker Club, which opened in October 2009, is located on the first floor of the existing grandstand building and is a gateway between the new slots facility and the horse racing facility. A covered walkway connects the two buildings.