Two Miami Pari-Mutuels Set Casino Plans

The two other pari-mutuels in Miami-Dade County, Florida, have moved ahead of Calder Race Course in announcing plans for casinos that would have Las Vegas-style slot machines.
At the annual Florida Gaming Summit in Hollywood, Fla., Oct. 7, officials of Flagler Dog Track and of Miami Jai-Alai said they expect to open casinos during the third quarter of 2009 and first quarter of 2010, respectively.
They said they would not consider Calder a rival for casino players’ dollars. Calder is 17 miles from Miami Jai-Alai and 19 miles from Flagler Dog Track. Both are near Miami International Airport, which is west of downtown Miami.
Parent Churchill Downs Inc. has said it plans to build a casino at Calder, in Miami Gardens, Fla. But it has not announced a date for start of construction or other details.
On Jan. 28, Miami-Dade voters approved a ballot issue that permits each of the three pari-mutuels to have a casino with up to 2,000 Class III Las Vegas-style slot machines. Calder, the Greyhound track and the fronton were allies in a campaign for that ballot issue.
“They (Calder and Miami Jai-Alai) are our friends,” said Barbara Havenick, Flagler Dog Track’s president. “Calder is far enough north to be in a different geographic market.”
The conference was sponsored by Spectrum Gaming Group and BNP Media Gaming Group and was held at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. That casino is in Broward County, and is six miles north of Calder.
The Seminole Hard Rock has Las Vegas-style slot machines and since June 2008 has had Florida’s only non-underground black jack and baccarat tables. The Seminole Tribe of Florida is operating those games even though the Supreme Court of Florida on July 3 ruled that Gov. Charlie Crist’s 2007 compact that authorized them was not legal under Florida law.

In its ruling on a suit brought by the Florida House of Representatives, the court said Crist exceeded his authority by permitting the Seminoles to have black jack and baccarat, which are not legal in Florida. Several House leaders are opposed to that expansion of gambling.
The casino plans of Miami’s two other pari-mutuels provide some indications of costs and construction timeframes that Calder might face.
Flagler Dog Track has begun work on a portion of its building where it hopes to open a casino during 2009’s third quarter, said Alexander Havenick, the greyhound track’s vice president of operations and legal affairs.
Utility companies are examining Miami Jai-Alai’s building for necessary changes for a planned renovation and new construction, said Daniel Licciardi, vice president and general manager of the fronton’s parent Florida Gaming Corp.
He showed renderings of a planned casino building, with up to 1,500 slot machines, that would be connected by an elevated walkway to the fronton. He did not discuss possible costs.
Alexander Havenick said “the economy set our schedule back a bit.“ But he added that Flagler Dog Track has obtained financing, and have hired an architect for its casino project.
The greyhound track expects to spend $40 million on its first phase, for opening a casino with about 750 slot machines. It will then take the name Magic City Casino.
Florida law requires pari-mutuels to continue live racing or jai-alai after they open casinos.
Under its long-range plan, Flagler Dog Track will spend up to $130 million for a casino with 1,500 slot machines, Havenick said.
Former Gulfstream Park president Scott Savin is Flagler Dog Track’s COO.
The only tribal  casino in Miami-Dade County is a Miccosukee Tribe casino, with Class II bingo-like machines, located southwest of Miami.
Thus, Havenick and Licciardi each said their competition with tribal casinos probably will be less intense than the competition between Broward County pari-mutuels and the Seminole Hard Rock.
Gulfstream is one of three Broward pari-mutuels that have casinos. Pari-mutuel casinos in both South Florida counties pay a 50 percent state tax on net slot machine revenues.
Under their compact with Crist, the Seminoles are making their first payments of a portion of gaming revenues to the state. Their 2008 payment of $100 million is less than 10 percent of net gaming revenues, according to analysis by Indian Gaming Report. The Florida government has put that money in an escrow account until the Florida House’s legal dispute with the Seminoles is resolved.