Calder Casino & Race Course has added three races to its weekly schedule—with one more race each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
The Miami Gardens, Fla., track began the change over the weekend of May 21-23, by expanding from 10 to 11 races on Fridays and from nine to 10 on Sundays. Beginning May 29, Calder will increase its Saturday cards from 12 to 13 races.
Calder has four days of live racing per week. It will continue to have eight races on Thursdays and plans to indefinitely stay with 42 races per week, rather than its original 39, said John Marshall, the track’s vice president and manager of racing operations.
Calder is making the changes because handle from its Calder Meet that began on April 25 has been at a pace indicating that the added races will not result in an overpayment in overnight purses, Marshall said.
Marshall and Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, both noted that additional money from Calder’s slot machines will be allocated to purses beginning this July 1. That is the effective date for a new Florida law that lowers the state tax rate from 50% to 35% on the Las Vegas-style slot machines at Calder, Gulfstream Park, and the three other southeast Florida pari-mutuels that have casinos.
“This is the same number (42) of races we had at the end of last year,” Marshall said. “This was a joint decision, made with our horsemen (Florida HBPA).”
Like other tracks owned by Churchill Downs Inc., Calder does not routinely disclose handle figures. However, Marshall said that through May 23, the first 17 days of the meet, Calder all-sources handle was down only compared with the same period in 2009.
A Blood-Horse review of Equibase charts showed that Calder’s average daily all-sources handle was approximately $2.2 million for those days. Breakdowns of sources and comparisons to 2009 were not available.
According to Equibase, all-sources handle at U.S. Thoroughbred tracks was down 8.4% this January through April, compared with the same period in 2009.
Calder is among tracks being impacted by the problems in New York racing.
New York City OTB has usually accounted for about 10% of Calder’s Interstate Wagering (ISW) handle, Marshall said. NYCOTB stopped taking Calder’s signal on May 21. As of May 27, it was taking signals only from Belmont Park and Finger Lakes.
Calder began its 2010 meet with a goal of having average daily overnight purses of about $175,000. Through May 23, the average has been “in the one sixties ($160,000 or more),” Marshall said. “We are starting Phase II, and hope this will get it closer to $175,000, and after July 1 we hope we will hit that number and be able to stay there.”
Calder began its meet “conservatively” with its purse account, Stirling said.
“This (additional races) is an indication that things are moving in the right direction,” he said. “We are looking forward to the increase in slots revenues.”
Calder opened its casino on Jan. 22. The building has 1,245 slot machines.
Under the agreement it signed with the Florida HPBA in 2008, Calder will pay a minimum of $4.5 million from slots revenue to race purses this year. The agreement calls for that amount and increased payments if the 50% tax rate is reduced. Under the agreement, purses will receive an additional 35% of the difference between slots tax payments at the 50% rate and the lower rate, as of July 1.
Thus, of every $100 in Calder slots tax savings $35 will go to purses—all for overnight non-stakes races.
Calder has estimated that slots revenues will provide an average of $30,000 per race for purses prior to July 1. With the tax rate reduced to 35%, it expects that number will grow by $5,000 or more for the remainder of the year.
Data from the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering show that Calder had $21.4 million in slot machines revenue through May 16. It paid Florida taxes of $10.7 million in on those revenues.
Under a 35% tax, post July 1 slots revenues of $21.4 million would generate state taxes of $7.5 million. That would be $3.2 million lower than under a 50% tax. About $1.1 million of the $3.2 million would go to purses at Calder.
Through May 16, Calder’s average daily revenue per slot machine for the month was $164, according to the Florida DPMW. For the full month of April, Calder’s average was $152.
Calder and Magic City Casino (formerly known as Flagler Greyhound) are the only South Florida pari-mutuels that have increased their daily average slots revenue from April through May.
“We are developing our base of casino customers,” Marshall said. “We are finding that our casino business is driven less by tourism and seasonal (winning) factors than some of our competitors.”
The opening of Calder’s eight-month racing season also has helped bring more business to the casino, at a pace that cannot be determined, he said.