Calder Race Course has won the right to install slot machines.

Calder Race Course has won the right to install slot machines.

Eliot Schecter

Calder On-Track Handle Down 24%

On-track handle fell 24% at the recent Tropical-at-Calder meet.

by James Freer

On-track handle at Calder Race Course fell 24% during the 2007 portion of its Tropical meet, according to data obtained from the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering. Calder’s simulcast handle fell 26% compared with the same period in 2006.

The bright spot was that combined inter-track and interstate handle rose 18%. An undetermined amount of that increase was attributable to the September launch of the simulcast of Calder races by neighbors Gulfstream Park and the Isle of Capri Casino at Pompano Park.

The numbers cover the Tropical meet’s first 58 days through Dec. 31 of 2006 and 2007. The Florida regulatory agency did not have data readily available for Jan. 1-2 of 2007 and 2008. Calder ran its Tropical Derby (gr. IIIT) and Tropical Oaks stakes on Jan. 2.

For the Tropical meet in 2006, Calder had daily average on-site handle of $356,402. In 2007, the figure was $269,972, a drop of 24%.

Calder is not releasing 2007-08 Tropical meet data. Last August, Churchill Downs Inc. said it would no longer release handle and attendance figures at the conclusion of meets for Calder and its other racetracks.

Calder president Ken Dunn in December said handle and attendance figures since last summer had been lower than in 2006. Dunn did not disclose numbers but said Calder believed there were several reasons: high gas prices, concerns about the real estate market and overall economy, and competition for gaming dollars from casinos at racetracks in adjacent Broward County and from tribal casinos in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Bad weather on several of Calder’s big Saturday programs also hurt on-track business, he said.

The Tropical meet had 58 live days and 19 simulcast days in 2007. For those days, the average daily simulcast handle fell from $501,022 to $370,294 compared with 2006. Combined average daily inter-track and interstate handle rose from $859,033 to $1,012,895.

The Division of Pari-Mutuel wagering said the figures are subject to audit and may change at a future date.

On-site wagering fell during the last six months of 2007 at Flagler Dog Track and Miami Jai-Alai, Miami-Dade County’s two other pari-mutuel facilities. The declines were 15% at the jai-alai fronton and 2% at the Greyhound track.

On Jan. 29, Miami-Dade voters will decide if Calder and the two other facilities can install Class III Las Vegas-style slot machines. Like Broward County pari-mutuels, Calder and the two other facilities would pay 50% of net revenue from slot machines to the Florida government for education programs. They also would pay combined taxes of about 10% to local governments and the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association.