Status Quo So Far for Tampa Bay, Hialeah

Status Quo So Far for Tampa Bay, Hialeah
Photo: Tom Cooley Photography
Tampa Bay Downs

Tampa Bay Downs and Hialeah Park haven't amended their plans for live racing dates for the 12-month period that begins July 1, though they have until Feb. 28 to do so.

The plans of both tracks are being watched closely by racing industry officials in Florida and around the country for different reasons: A ruling by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering could impact Tampa Bay Downs, while Hialeah has been expected for some time to request limited Thoroughbred racing.

Tampa Bay Downs intends to race July 1 and not race again for almost five months. It would hold its traditional meet from Nov. 29 through May 3, 2015, and then be dark until a single race day on June 30. The Florida DPMW last May approved the track's request to be a year-round simulcast host by racing July 1, 2013, and June 30, 2014–the first and last days of Florida's 2013-14 fiscal year.

A Florida host track pays Thoroughbred tracks outside of Florida to take signals and sells them to other Florida pari-mutuel outlets.

The change from being a host track for five months to year-round has put Tampa Bay Downs on path to increase its host-track wagering business from about $40 million in 2012-13 to about $70 million for the current fiscal year based on a Blood-Horse review of Florida DPMW data. Its revenue likely would grow from about $5 million to about $9 million.

Tampa Bay Downs has said the increase in host-track business allowed it to raise total purses by 15%, or about $20,000 per race day, during its current meet.

However, the Florida DPMW Dec. 3 issued a proposed rule that would allow a track to be a host only during a period when it is holding a meet in consecutive weeks with racing at least three days a week. The Florida DPMW will hold a public hearing on the proposed rule March 6 in Tallahassee; no timetable was set for issuing a final rule.

Hialeah, in its late-December filing, said it plans to hold a 40-day Quarter Horse meet from Nov. 28, 2014, to Feb. 22, 2015, mostly Fridays through Sundays.

Hialeah has not held Thoroughbred racing since 2001. It has not had a Thoroughbred license since 2003, when the Florida DPMW revoked it because Hialeah didn't racing during consecutive years.

Under the Quarter Horse license it was issued in 2009, Hialeah can hold mixed meets with up to half its races for Thoroughbreds. But track owner and chairman John Brunetti said he does not want to return to Thoroughbred racing if Hialeah has to race at the same time as Gulfstream Park or Calder Casino & Race Course, which currently are racing head-to-head and may do so again in the next fiscal year.

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