Calder to Continue Simulcasts to Gulfstream

Gulfstream does not plan to resume sending signal to Calder.

Racing will resume in the Miami area Oct. 25, with Calder Casino & Race Course saying it will keep sending its live and imported signals to Gulfstream Park rather than joining Gulfstream in a cross-town simulcast blackout.

For now, Calder says it will not withdraw any signals to Gulfstream.

Gulfstream stopped sending its live and imported signals to Calder on Oct. 12, for reasons related to simulcasts at Mardi Gras Casino Florida and a Gulfstream-Calder dispute on simulcast settlement fees.

Meanwhile, Calder has entered a third week of sending daytime Thoroughbred simulcasts to Mardi Gras, Gulfstream's competitor in Hallandale Beach, Fla.

This is the first time Mardi Gras has shown and taken bets on Thoroughbred races prior to 6 p.m. Mardi Gras was formerly known as Hollywood Greyhound and still has dog racing.

The immediate impact of the signal changes has been a shift in some simulcast revenues, with data not readily available, and an inconvenience to simulcast bettors at Calder.

The dispute looms as another obstacle to efforts by Gulfstream and Calder to halt their head-to-head racing they began July 6 and are scheduled to continue through next June 30.

A Gulfstream official cited two reasons for cutting off its signals to Calder.

Gulfstream maintains that Calder owes it $5.2 million in settlement payments for simulcasting from October 2012 through September 2013. 

Mardi Gras showed and took bets on several Gulfstream races Oct. 5, without Gulfstream's required approval, under the simulcast agreement that began that day between Calder and Mardi Gras.

Calder is sending Mardi Gras its signal and daytime signals of six other Thoroughbred tracks.

The inclusion of the Gulfstream signal at Mardi Gras was "inadvertent," according to John Marshall, Calder's vice president and general manager of racing.

"Tim Ritvo (Gulfstream president) called me and we immediately stopped showing Gulfstream," said Dan Adkins, Mardi Gras' chief gaming executive.

In complaints it filed Oct, 8, Gulfstream asked the Florida Division of Part-Mutuel Wagering to investigate both matters.

Gulfstream maintains that Calder violated state laws and rules by sending Mardi Gras another Florida Thoroughbred track's signal without that track's permission.

"We plan to keep sending our signals to Gulfstream," a Calder spokesman said. He added that Calder continues to hope that Gulfstream will resume transmission to Calder.

Otherwise Calder officials are not commenting on the simulcast controversy. 

Calder will gain some simulcast leverage Oct. 27 when its sister track Churchill Downs begins it's fall meet. Gulfstream requires the Calder signal to carry Churchill.

A Gulfstream official declined comment on whether and when his track might resume simulcasting to Calder.

Calder is in Miami Gardens, Fla., and is owned by Churchill Downs Inc. Gulfstream is owned by The Stronach Group. The two tracks are just eight miles apart. They have been racing head-to-head on Saturdays and Sundays after they could not resolve a dispute over racing dates. Calder is also racing on Fridays.

Gulfstream will add Fridays in early December and gradually expand to Wednesdays through Sundays until early April.

Calder-Gulfstream Issues

The two tracks have an agreement to give each other at least 10 days notice before making any changes in simulcasting to each other or to other horse tracks, Greyhound tracks or jai-alai frontons in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market.

Neither gave the other any advance notice on the recent changes.

Monarch Content Management, a Stronach company, has stopped sending Calder the signals of Santa Anita Park, Laurel Park, Golden Gate Fields, Portland Meadows, and Meadowlands. All but Meadowlands are owned by Stronach Group.

The Breeders' Cup will distribute the Breeders' Cup races at Santa Anita on Nov. 1-2. That means Calder will carry those races, Marshall said.

On Oct. 12, many fans at Calder were furious after showing up and finding out that they could not bet on Gulfstream and Santa Anita races they had handicapped.

Prior to the blackout by Gulfstream, the two tracks were selling each other their signals under Florida's host track system.

A guest track that receives signals gets at least one-third of the takeout of bets on those races at its track. The host track gets the remainder, with half of that designated for race purses.

Partly because of its national brand recognition, Gulfstream has maintained a better than 2-to-1 advantage over Calder in all-sources handle.

The latest full available data, based on Equibase Co. charts, show that from July 1 through Sept. 30 Gulfstream had daily average all-sources handle of $2,386,911, compared with $1,121,618 for Calder.

On Oct. 19, Gulfstream had all-sources handle of $1,854,225 for eight races and Calder had all-sources handle of $1,027,651 for nine races. Neither track had any stakes races that day.

Mardi Gras

Gulfstream and Mardi Gras are about 1 1/2 miles apart on heavily traveled Federal Highway (U.S.1).

They are bitter rivals for casino business and have had numerous disputes on regulatory and legal issues.

Mardi Gras is taking the signals of Calder, Belmont Park, Keeneland, Hawthorne Racecourse, Parx Racing, Woodbine, and Finger Lakes.

A Florida law requires a Thoroughbred track to sell and send signals of any post 6 p.m. imported tracks to any Florida pari-mutuel that wants them.

Prior to 6 p.m. a Florida Thoroughbred track is not required to send its live or imported signals to other pari-mutuels within its 25-mile radius.

There is a view that Calder's simulcasting to Mardi Gras is an "in your face" gesture to Gulfstream.

Adkins said he regards it as an example of what he feels should be a free market, with any Florida pari-mutuel being able to purchase any horse, Greyhound or jai-alai signal.

"Calder contacted our mutuels department and we agreed to it," he said.

"It's hard for fans to understand the rules in Florida," Adkins added. "We have people coming in all the time asking why can't I bet Gulfstream or why can't I bet Belmont."

Early in the afternoon Oct. 19, a Saturday, Mardi Gras had a large crowd in its simulcast area with many TVs showing Thoroughbreds.

Adkins said simulcast betting, except for jai-alai, has "been up double digits" this October, compared with October 2012. He said pre-6 p.m. betting on Thoroughbreds has been a big part of that.

"A lot of guys go to Gulfstream during the day and then come here at night to bet the dogs," Adkins said, "I expect we are getting some of them now in the afternoon."

Calder also sends its signal and pre-6 p.m. imported signals to harness track Isle Racing & Casino at Pompano Park.

Gulfstream sends those signals to Hialeah Park and to Magic City, formerly known as Flagler Greyhound.

A general factor is that the Thoroughbred host believes that the guest track is far enough away that most of its Thoroughbred bettors would not otherwise be coming to the Thoroughbred track.