Gulfstream Tops in Florida Host-Track Race

Gulfstream Tops in Florida Host-Track Race
Photo: Coglianese Photos

Gulfstream Park moved ahead of Tampa Bay Downs during November in Florida's three-way competition for host-track simulcast business, according to data released Dec. 12 by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.

Calder Casino & Race Course remained third in the lucrative host-track business through November, but was second for the month, the fifth of Florida's 2013-14 fiscal year. Meanwhile the Florida DPMW is reviewing a proposed rule that could prevent Tampa Bay Downs, starting in mid-2014, from continuing as a simulcast host track on a year-round basis.

A host track pays to take simulcast signals from Thoroughbred tracks outside Florida and sells them to other Florida pari-mutuel facilities, which are known as guest tracks.

The Blood-Horse estimates that host tracks' combined annual pre-tax revenue from import simulcasts has been $30 million to $40 million in recent years. Half of the revenue must be put into purses at the host track.

Until this year, Calder was the only Florida Thoroughbred track with racing in any month between June and November. Thus, it was Florida's only host track during those months, and it relied on that business as a steady source of revenue. But since late May 2013, each of the tracks has been operating as a host track.

The Florida DPMW Dec. 3 issued a proposed rule that would allow a track to be a host only during a period when it is holding a race meet in consecutive weeks, while racing at least three days a week. Tampa Bay Downs in May received permission from the Florida DPMW to be a year-round host by racing July 1, 2013, and June 30, 2014, the first and last days of Florida's fiscal year.

The regulator accepted Tampa Bay Downs' interpretation of Florida law that running the first day and last day of a fiscal year, with a regular meet of at least 40 days in between, is sufficient to be a year-round simulcast host.

Tampa Bay then went five months without racing. It opened its 2013-14 meet Dec. 4 and will have racing through next May 4. Miami-area neighbors Calder and Gulfstream have tentative plans to run year-round in fiscal 2014-15, and thus would be eligible to continue as year-round hosts.

Calder in June asked the Florida DPMW to review its host-track rules, with a goal of returning to pre-2013 requirements of three racing days a week.

Calder vice president and general manager of racing John Marshall said the proposed rule issued Dec. 3 "verifies what has been the interpretation of the interstate simulcast law passed in 1996 by the Florida Legislature, and we are glad that the division's proposed rule conforms with the statute."

The Florida DPMW will hold a public hearing, for which it has not set a date, to review its proposed rule. It does not have a timetable for issuing a final rule.

Officials at Tampa Bay Downs and Gulfstream weren't available for comment on the proposed rule or on the November host-track numbers.

Florida has 32 pari-mutuel facilities, including, the three Thoroughbred tracks, that can take signals as guest tracks. In November Gulfstream was the host track for $9.7 million of wagering at guest tracks. Calder had $7.2 million and Tampa Bay had $5 million.

For the first five months of the fiscal year, Gulfstream had $34.5 million for 38% of a $91 million market. Tampa Bay Downs had $31.4 million for 35%, and Calder had $25 million for 27%.

In Florida's 2012-13 fiscal year Calder provided the signals for $169 million, or 65%, of the $262 million in guest-track betting. That generated estimated revenue of about $23 million for Calder; that number is on path to drop to about $8 million during fiscal 2013-14, according to The Blood-Horse estimates.

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