Mall Joins Racing, Casino at Gulfstream

Grand opening held Feb. 11 at South Florida track.

Gulfstream Park began the mixture of a shopping mall with its racing and casino on Feb. 11 with the grand opening of The Village at Gulfstream Park.

Approximately 25 restaurants and retailers opened during the day, bringing the total number of tenants to 30 at the property in Hallandale Beach, Fla.  About 15 more tenants are scheduled to open by the end of this March.  Crate & Barrel and The Container Store are the most prominent non-restaurant tenants.

The outdoor mall is adjacent to Gulfstream’s grandstand/casino building and has space for 70 tenants.  About 85 percent of the space is leased, said Brian Ratner president of East Coast Enterprises for Cleveland-based developer Forest City Enterprises.

Magna Entertainment, Gulfstream’s parent, and Forest City are joint venture partners in The Village at Gulfstream Park.  Under a pending agreement in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., Gulfstream Park and Magna’s stake in The Village at Gulfstream Park are among properties that would be acquired by MI Developments, the controlling shareholder in Magna Entertainment.

Magna and Forest City are promoting the project as the first major U.S. retail center anchored by a racetrack.  They also plan to build a hotel and condominiums, but have not set a year for possible start of construction.

The opening of the mall leads to questions of how many shoppers and diners might walk eastward several hundred feet to bet on live simulcast racing and play slot machines and poker.

The timing is just prior to some of Gulfstream’s biggest racing weekends, including the Feb. 20 Fountain of Youth (gr. II) at 1 1/18 miles for 3-year-olds.

The mall is opening during a meet when Gulfstream, like many other U.S. tracks, is experiencing a decline in handle.  However, data provided by Gulfstream indicates its 2010 decline has been less than the industry’s average.

Gulfstream’s on-track handle on its races was down 10.3%, year-to-date, through Feb. 7, said Ken Dunn, the track’s president and general manager.  Intra-Track Wagering (ITW) on Gulfstream races was down 10.1% year-to-date for the period.  Precise dollar figures were not readily available.

Interstate Wagering (ISW) on Gulfstream races was down 4.3% year-to-date from $164.5 million to $157.4 million. That includes the period from Gulfstream’s meet opening on Jan. 3 through Jan. 21, when its signal was among those not carried by 17 tracks in Northeastern states. That blackout was due to a dispute between the MidAtlantic Cooperative, which represents the tracks, and TrackNet Media Group.

In recent years, the MidAtlantic Cooperative has accounted for about 14% of Gulfstream’s ISW handle, Dunn said.

Through Jan. 21, Gulfstream’s ISW handle had been down 17%--a factor Dunn attributes largely to the MidAtlantic situation.

“The good story is that our ISW has been coming back since the MidAtlantic settlement,” he said. “That shows how our racing product is attractive, even amid the economy’s problems.”

Thus, he expects that Gulfstream’s ISW numbers will show an increase for its meet that will end on April 24.

Dunn attributed Gulfstream’s on-track and ITW handle declines largely to the economy and a mid-January period of record cold in Florida.

On Feb. 4, Equibase Co. reported that wagering on U.S. Thoroughbred races was 12.0% lower in January 2010 than in January 2009.

Gulfstream does not plan to install betting machines for races in stores or restaurants during its meet that ends April 24, Dunn said. It will consider setting up a kiosk within the mall, with machines and TVs that show races.

By the final weeks of Gulfstream’s meet, it could have agreements in which patrons in some restaurants could give receive vouchers for race betting and slots play, Dunn added.

Gulfstream’s recent local advertising has combined the mall with racing and the casino. That will continue, he said.

The property has about 6,700 parking places, including a new garage at the mall. Dunn expects that will be sufficient on weekends at least until the Florida Derby (gr. I) March 20.

Before then, Gulfstream might be able to add more parking places on the south side of its property, he said.

Forest City’s Ratner said some of the mall’s tenants have been given concessions on their leases.  He would not disclose rental rates or other details.  But he said any concessions “were not large” considering steps some other property owners are taking amid the recession.

The Village at Gulfstream Park has entrances on U.S. 1 (Federal Highway).  It is directly west of the grandstand/clubhouse and is connected by sidewalks.

Some observers are wondering how the mall’s stores and restaurants will fare beginning in May, after Gulfstream ends its racing season.

But Ratner said he expects that the mall by then will have built a customer base, adding that mall goers will still be able to take a short walk for simulcast betting, Las Vegas-style slot machines, and poker.

Gulfstream is having its most successful slot machines season since it opened its casino in November 2006.  The casino’s pre-tax slots revenues rose 26%, from $3.9 million in January 2009 to $5 million in January 2010, according to the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.

January 2010 was the best revenues month in the Gulfstream casino’s history.

Meanwhile, during January 2010 in South Florida slots revenues rose 9.3% at harness track Isle Casino & Racing at Pompano Park and fell 18.2% at Greyhound track Mardi Gras Racetrack and Gaming.

“We are consistently giving slots players the games they want,” said Steve Calabro, Gulfstream’s vice president of gaming.

Gulfstream’s marketing and its awards programs, of prizes and free slots play, also are attracting return business, he said.

Gulfstream has 845 slot machines. For the seven days ended Jan. 31, 2010, it had daily average revenues of $178 per machine.

Calder Race Course opened a casino with 1,245 slot machines on Jan. 22. For the seven days ended Jan. 31, its daily average revenues were $125 per machine.