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Calder Handle Down Significantly

Most recent meet down 31%.


Wagering in Florida on Calder Race Course’s recently concluded Tropical at Calder meet fell 31% in 2008, according to the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.

That included a 37% decline at Calder and a 27% decline at other Florida pari-mutuels that take Calder’s live and imported signals.

The Florida DPMW data include all bets made at the Miami Gardens, Fla., track and 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 racetracks and other facilities outside Florida or bets on Calder races through advance deposit wagering (ADW) outlets.

Using that system, the Florida DPMW showed Tropical at Calder meet handle falling from $140.8 million in 2007-2008 to $97.8 million in 2008-2009. As of Jan. 9, the 2008-2009 numbers had not been audited.

The recent Tropical at Calder meet ran from Oct. 23 to Jan. 2, 2009 and included 51 live race days. The 2007-2008 Tropical at Calder meet ran from Oct. 15, 2007 to Jan. 2, 2008 and had 60 live race days.

Calder and its parent, Churchill Downs Inc., have a policy of not commenting on meet-end totals, a Calder official said Jan. 12.

The 2008 combined Calder and Tropical at Calder meets were marked by some of the industry’s most significant contract disputes between horsemen’s groups and track management.

The Florida DPMW system showed Calder handle for the combined eight months of its two meets falling from $490 million in 2007-2008 to $378.3 million in 2008-2009. That was a 23% decline.

Calder was one of numerous tracks that had lower handle in 2008.

Total commingled wagering on U.S. races and separate pool wagering in Canada fell 7% last year, according to data released Jan. 6 by Equibase. That wagering declined from $14,723,993,055 in 2007 to $13,670,196,938 last year. The drop-off was 20% in December.

Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs took Calder’s live and imported signals during the 2008 Calder and Tropical at Calder meets. So did approximately 20 Greyhound tracks and jai-alai frontons in Florida. Under a previous state rule, Gulfstream was able to take Calder’s signal for only three months in 2007.

Part of Calder’s 2008 decline as tracked by the Florida DPMW 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 Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association signed contracts with Calder on 2008 purses and on future slot machine revenues at a casino CDI plans to build in Calder.

In another contract dispute with the Florida HBPA, most major ADWs were not able to take bets on Calder races until the week of Dec. 22. That cost Calder an undetermined amount of ADW handle, not tracked by the Florida DPMW, over eight months.

The Florida DPMW data for the Tropical at Calder meets show handle breakdowns in four categories in 2007 and 2008, related to Calder as a live and host track.

* Wagering at Calder on Calder races fell 40%, from $16.6 million to $9.9 million.

* Wagering at Calder on simulcast races it carries from tracks in other states fell 35%, from $29.2 million to $18.9 million.

* Wagering at other Florida pari-mutuel facilities on Calder races fell 38%, from $16.3 million to $10.1 million.

* Wagering at other Florida pari-mutuels on simulcasts from tracks in other states that Calder takes as host and then sends to guests fell 25%, from $78.7 million to $58.9 million.

CDI reports handle data for its tracks only in its quarterly earnings releases. It has not yet reported that data for 2008’s fourth quarter.

Amid disputes, Calder cut overnight purses twice in 2008 due to handle declines that resulted in purse overpayments.

Calder also canceled 11 stakes, including three graded stakes, during its Tropical meet. The loss of those stakes undoubtedly was a big factor in the large drop in that meet’s handle.