Handle at Recent Calder Meet Drops 20%
by Jim Freer
Date Posted: 11/3/2008 1:28:30 PM
Last Updated: 11/5/2008 9:33:44 AM
Handle at Calder Race Course’s recently-concluded Calder meet fell 20% compared with 2007, according to the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.
That included a 37% decline in betting at Calder and a 10% drop at other Florida pari-mutuels that take Calder’s live and imported signals.
The Florida DPMW data includes all bets made at the Miami Gardens, Fla., track, as well as all bets on Calder races and its imported Thoroughbred races at other pari-mutuel facilities in Florida. It does not include data on bets made on Calder races at facilities outside Florida or bets on Calder races through advance deposit wagering (ADW) outlets.
Using that system, the Florida DPMW showed total Calder meet handle falling from $349.2 million in 2007 to $280.5 million in 2008. After its Calder meet, which concluded Oct. 19, the track began its annual Tropical at Calder meet which runs through Jan. 2, 2009.
Officials of Calder and its parent Churchill Downs Inc. declined to comment on the Florida DPMW numbers. CDI since last year stopped publicly providing handle updates on its meets, and has released handle data on its tracks only in its quarterly reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission. CDI will release its third quarter results on Nov. 5.
Calder’s handle decline is part of this year’s overall drop in wagering on races at U.S. Thoroughbred tracks, amid an economic slowdown. On Oct. 9, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Equibase Company reported U.S. and Canadian wagering on U.S. races fell 10% during this year’s third quarter. That wagering fell 6% during this year’s first nine months, compared with the first nine months of 2007.
The Florida DPMW’s 2007 numbers are from April 25 to Oct. 14, including 112 live race days at Calder. The 2008 numbers are from April 21 through Oct. 19, including 109 live race days at Calder.
Part of this year’s decline is related to contract disputes between Calder and the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.
Through July 6, approximately 10 tracks in other states did not send simulcast signals to Calder or to its guest tracks in Florida. Horsemen’s groups in several states barred tracks from sending signals to Calder until the Florida HBPA signed contracts with Calder on 2008 purses and on future slot machine revenues at a casino CDI plans to build in Calder.
The Florida DPMW data for the Calder meet show handle breakdowns in four categories for 2007 and 2008, related to Calder as a live and host track:
* Wagering at Calder on Calder races fell 37%, from $37.3 million to $23.6 million.
* Wagering at Calder on simulcast races it carries from tracks in other states fell 36%, from $94.4 million to $60.1 million.
* Wagering at other Florida pari-mutuel facilities on Calder races fell 13%, from $23.3 million to $20.2 million.
* Wagering at other Florida pari-mutuel facilities on simulcasts from tracks in other states that Calder takes as host and then sends to guests fell 9%, from $194.2 million to $176.6 million.
Thus, the Florida DPMW shows total wagering at Calder fell from $131.7 million to $83.7 million. Calder-related wagering at other Florida facilities fell from $217.5 million to $196.8 million.
Gulfstream Park, Tampa Bay Downs and more than a dozen Florida Greyhound tracks and jai-alai frontons take Calder’s signal for its races and simulcast races.
Calder does not release attendance figures. But The Blood-Horse has observed that crowds have been smaller on many weekend days this year at the track’s Turf Club and other areas frequented by large bettors. That apparently has contributed to the decline in on-site handle.
The Florida DPMW data does not include wagering on Calder races at non-Florida tracks and through ADWs -- two outlets on which there have undoubtedly been declines this year.
Until July 7, the Florida HPBA using authority under the Interstate Horseracing Act did not permit Calder to send its signal to tracks outside Florida. The THG is seeking a higher percentage of ADW takeouts at all tracks where its member horsemen’s groups race.
CDI and the national Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Group have not signed a 2008 agreement for Calder with several key domestic advance deposit wagering companies, although the signal is available to other U.S.-based wagering entities such as the New York Off-Track Betting Corp., Philadelphia Park’s Phone Bet, and Penn National’s USA EBet, among others, as well as many off-shore sites.
Amid contract disputes, Calder cut average daily overnight purses by 30% on April 22. It restored those cuts on July 7. But on September 12, it cut average daily overnights 17% from $180,000 to $150,000.
Calder on Sept. 12 cancelled eight stakes and cut purses on four others from late September through Jan. 2. CDI spokesman Kevin Flanery said that the impact of lost simulcast and ADW revenue “require that these reductions be made.”
Calder’s Florida Million card on Nov. 8 will not be impacted by purse cuts.
All eight stakes for Florida-breds retain their original purses, totaling $1.2 million. Half of the total purse money is from the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association Fund.
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