The first volley across the Florida legislature’s gambling bow has been fired by Naples area State Senator, Garrett Richter. He’s filed a bill which would allow the highest bidder(s) to erect a destination casino (favoring one in Fort Lauderdale and Miami). His proposal espouses the large number of jobs and economic boost via increased State taxes. House speaker, Will Weatherford in a surprise move suggested he might back gaming expansion IF it involves a statewide mandate and IF Governor Scott negotiates a new compact with the Seminole Indian Tribe before it expires next year (very doubtful). The legislature gaming commission is expected to endorse a powerful gaming commission which will result in tighter regulations. (needed)
Sentiment about gaming expansion varies considerably around the State. The PANAMA CITY NEWS HERALD composed a cogent editorial endorsing “decoupling” which would eliminate the arbitrary minimum number of greyhound races annually required to hold a poker or racino license. That is not necessarily gaming expansion, but it lowers or eliminates the costly operation of running dogs (ranging from 100 to 394 performances annually depending upon the size of the track).
The Miami Herald reported that the new law requiring Florida’s 13 greyhound tracks to disclose the deaths of all greyhounds within 18 hours is now in effect. The legislation, passed in 2010 took effect in May 2013. Previously greyhound deaths were not reported at all.
The Miami Herald and WTVJ TV Channel 4 reported that one of greyhound racing’s top kennels used the signature of a deceased vet to forge vaccination reports of dogs. Florida requires all greyhounds be vaccinated…to prevent such contagious diseases as kennel cough. The State is asking that the kennel owner be fined and his dogs be removed from all racing in Florida.
Now in the midst of a very active gaming season, January provided positive revenues. State tax collections topped $15.5million and Net Slot Revenue was over $44.7million–up a hefty 16.9%. Isle at Pompano passed $13million in NSR for January leading the other 6 racinos. Hialeah topped $5million for the first time and Mardi Gras and Flagler were both up from 2013. Gulfstream and Miami Jai Alai were off a bit and Calder was virtually even. Broward’s three properties were slightly ahead of their four Dade County counterparts in NSR.
The Chinese have embarked upon a $3.5 Billion gaming resort at Cable Beach in Nassau. The Bahia Mar project scheduled for completion in December features 4 hotels, a 1500 slot/150 table casino and a Nicklaus golf course. The marketing is expected to be directed to the many gamblers in China as a destination resort on one of the Island’s finest beaches.The Import Export Bank of China is providing the bulk of the financing according to the Miami Herald, while the Chinese State Construction Engineering Corp. is the general contractor. With Genting building a destination casino on nearby Bimini, plus the Atlantis Resort in Nassau, it would appear that the Bahamas are in for a major upgrade for their long standing gambling industry.
Soccer star David Beckham and his group obtained rights to a MLS franchise in Miami IF a new, soccer- only, privately financed stadium is built. 6 downtown locations have been identified including several adjacent to the new Marlins stadium. The team could conceivably begin play in 2017. Joe Robbie’s Strikers (NASL Ron Newman/Ray Hudson/George Best) in the 80’s and more recent MLS Miami Fusion FC both failed ultimately from lack of attendance and no corporate base. However, when top European and South American pro teams play exhibitions at Sun Life Stadium, sell outs are common. There’s been some rumors that the new soccer stadium might be combined with a new UM football stadium, which is highly unlikely considering the U has a lease agreement with Sun Life Stadium for another 20 years.
Tampa Bay Downs has leapt into the top 4 of simulcast signals in the country behind Santa Anita, Gulfstream and Aqueduct. The track made a quantum leap when Gulfstream and Calder in South Florida began competing last summer. That head to head competition effectively snatched the “host track” designation for simulcasting from Calder. Tampa’s outstanding racing, busy turf course, and ability to attract owners, trainers and jockeys from across the land brought nationwide bettors to their signal in droves
World class pro sprinter, Olympic Gold medalist, Lauryn Williams (UM grad) went to the Winter Olympics at Sochi as the pusher for Elana Myers USA #1 Women’s Bobsled and won the Silver. Coaxed to go to the snow by fellow sprinter and veteran bob sledder, LoLo Jones, Williams learned the sport in less than a year.
NFL Dolphins hit a low point in their storied franchise of Robbie, Shula, Csonka and Marino. The disgraceful behavior in the locker room in “bullygate” has called into question the stewardship of Head Coach Joe Philbin, his assistants and senior management. The team had the largest increase in paid attendance in the NFL in 2013, a 12-percent bump to 64,319 following several years of decline. The increase was largely driven by group sales targeting schools, nonprofit organizations, youth sports and churches. Judging from the outcry on local sports radio, even long time diehard fans are unhappy with the team.
The perennial basement dwelling Florida Panthers have their hand out again, asking the Broward County Commission to give them $79Million in tourist taxes over the next 14years, plus the right to develop 22 acres north of their home the BB&T Center. The team, which has a new owner Vinnie Viola, claims it loses $20-30 million/year. Of course the unspoken but implied threat is that no tax support=time to move the team; leaving an empty arena in the tax payers laps. The Panthers arena and environs has been mentioned as a candidate for a destination resort casino.