We’ve decided after much thought and discussion to take a hiatus from THE CASINO DOCTORS to change our business model and blog. It’s been a wild ride this past 10 years as the State went from solely Indian tribal gaming, to statewide, basically unregulated casinos, racinos, card rooms, internet cafes, and, late breaking fantasy on line gambling.


Our predictions for the most part have come true. Wide Open.

The State of Florida has mismanaged the industry, as it swallowed up the Sunshine and spit out operations from little Gretna to Isle Capri, from the Palm Beach cruise to no- where to Genting’s go fast boat to Bimini, from strip mall internet cafes in Bradenton to the tremendously successful Hard Rock Resort of the Seminoles.

Looking back to Lawton Chiles and Jeb Bush, two Governors who INSISTED they would NEVER allow any form of gambling expansion, a tip of our hats  for opening gambling from Key West to Pensacola  by simply ignoring it (and collecting massive funds all the while from sides both pro and con) (like their legislative colleagues).

Well, you can’t ignore it any longer because it’s in your face. The current Governor is in no rush to work out compact with the Seminoles. No big deal. The Tribe will still be open 24/7;  But rest assured…..Frank Stronach will keep running horses, simulcasting and pokering and slots at the multi use Gulfstream Park; ditto John Brunetti at Hialeah; the Havenick family at Flagler/Magic City; Dan Atkins at Hollywood/Mardi Gras etc. and soon, the Rooney’s in West Palm… in fact there’s still a parimutuel license or two floating around which, when executed, would guarantee gambling  in areas that haven’t  yet been built out.

We’ve seen greyhound racing largely disappear as the economics and systems no longer suit the fans, and the real estate on which the dog tracks sit is among the most promising inner city tracts from Sarasota to Daytona, from Pensacola to Fort Myers. The departure of the mighty marathoners in favor of multi use commercial real estate beheamoths is on schedule. Dog racing will be done in the state by 2018.

Now gambling is all over the State. In some cases it is penny ante (for now); in some cases it is Vegasesque. There’s the full monte of an all in one entertainment, hotel, fine dining and gambling facility courtesy the Seminoles in Fort Lauderdale and Tampa.  Genting will soon figure out what to do with its downtown Miami bayfront property f/k/a The Miami Herald, but continues to trumpet its new casino/sports book in Bimini.  Trump, Adelson, Harrah’s are stalking in the weeds—-perhaps even to challenge their consummate corporate rival, Disney in its own back yard. There are others. Ladbrokes has been heard from.

As for the future, the gambling industry in Florida will have to consolidate to compete now that the NFL and NBA have basically decided to embrace betting either terestrial or internet—-there’s too much big money at stake not to; plus, the weather, tourists especially from South America and Europe, and the State’s long standing charysma lend itself to the industry. a la Macau and Las Vegas.

We’d like to thank several of our compadres for providing us info “on the record” especially Nick Sortal who is the only member of the media (Sun Sentinel) to have gambling as his daily beat/; and Jennifer Pierce whose information from Quarter Horses to back room politics has been invaluable.  And, we’d like to thank the fine people at Earth Plaza (fort lauderdale) for hosting our articles and information.

Thanks for stopping by: May all your exactas be back wheeled and long shots; your 5 game parlays score weekly; your 23 red  hits five consecutive times; and by all means, whenver possible, let it ride.


FLORIDA                          August Gaming Update

By Baird Thompson and Bill Hutchinson, THE CASINO DOCTORS


 Although business didn’t zoom ahead like most previous months, August showed a modest gain– up a smidge over $500,000 or 1.3%. $180,000 extra was added to the state coffers. No single explanation why the torrid business slowed,  but school starting, a VERY hot summer, end of vacations and more rain than in the two previous summer months COMBINED all contributed. Normally August and September are at the low end of the fiscal year and that continues.

A look at individual Racinos shows a nominally good month. One caveat:  last year shuttered Dania was still operating and had yet to announce its future total renovation plans. The loss of over $1 million in Net Slot Revenue at Dania was the major component lowering percentage increases. Also, double digit jumps many racinos have enjoyed were not in evidence in August.



The leader in NSR as usual was Isle at Pompano with over $10.8 million, up 6.6%, followed by Magic City just shy of $7 million- up 1.3%. Increased percentage winner was Casino Miami (jai alai) up 9.7% on $4.9 million in NSR with Hialeah Casino Race Track up 7.8% on $5.6 million NSR. Mardi Gras had an increase up 2.3% on $3.4 million. Mardi Gras has been aggressively marketing all summer unlike many competitors.



Gulfstream Park emphasizes thoroughbred racing always but enjoyed another good month up 1.7% with over $3.6 million in NSR. Calder Casino was the only downer…. off 3.1% on $5.8 million. The North Dade County facility no longer offer  summer horse racing or simulcasting which contribute more volatility to its slot play.

The loss of Dania’s 2014-15 $1 million had an obvious impact on the monthly increase percentages, however,  previous comparisons have included the Dania NSR and, therefore, lower increases keep in line with all previous comparisons.

We can expect renewed energy as the weather cools and snow birds and tourists return. Florida’s economy is thriving especially in the gaming demographic, therefore, more increases seem inevitable.

The Seminoles are still attempting to renegotiate a compact with the state. Some leaks from those close to the Governor’s office are saying a little progress is occurring. Without that compact’s renewal— any gambling expansion of any kind in the sunshine state will have extraordinary legal hurdles to overcome.


Card room gross receipts for August were marginally better UP 2.2%, $244,000 more than 2014. Greyhound poker play provided the bulk of business with 13 locations adding $8.2 million or 71% of the total August statewide amount of $11.4 million in gross receipts. Those greyhound racinos were buoyed by a hefty $500,000 more than last year.

Quarter horses racinos with poker play also showed positive gains, however, the thoroughbreds and jai alai racinos dipped from the previous year. Again, jai alai’s overall contribution was severely affected by Dania’s closure. The leaders in action remain the same with Jacksonville, Palm Beach and Daytona/ W. Volusia the top three. Hialeah, Pompano and Flagler all had excellent months.

Hialeah casino undergoing a massive renovation and expansion.

Hialeah casino undergoing a massive renovation and expansion.

Tournament poker play was down considerably: 13.4% from last year’s substantial $1million in receipts. The percentage of tournament action at all locations was  8.9% in 2014 and fell to 7.6% for this August. Only Hialeah Race Track and Casino showed any increase in tournament action from the prior year.

Genting continues to run its gambling ferry to Bimini and their recently opened casino but the sports book on board has been eliminated in favor of a series of meeting spaces.


2014-2015 FLORIDA Pari-Mutuels Year-End Financial Results Dissapoint ; SLOTS AND POKER CONTINUE STRONG

By Baird Thompson and William Hutchinson

Months dragged on without the State reporting horse/dog/jai alai handles; a strongly suspected reason: a very poor year for the Florida pari-mutuels. Turns out, it was worse than that, down close to $71 million or 8.3%. A precipitous fall.

Next question; will it stop? And, what will stop it?

We brokedown the five different pari-mutuel operating types and identified several  simple observations. First, of the total decline of $70 plus million, the thoroughbreds were $60.3 million of the amount. Calder’s closing and its typical  $128 Million in accumulated handle, plus a drop at Tampa Bay Downs of $21 million was precipitous in spite of Gulfstream’s increase of $53 million. The result: an 11.4% downturn. The GP/CRC consolidation championed by the horsemen was an  unmitigated punt. Additionally, live horse racing even showed a small decline from the previous year. While the national picture for thoroughbred racing brightened starring Bob Baffert’s triumphant American Pharoah Triple Crown, South Florida thoroughbred racing appears to have trouble brewing. The Legislature might help by lowering the tax rate, but it’s really a red herring that doesn’t affect the horse men, jockeys, trainers, barn employees etc. much less help broaden racing’s appeal to patrons. In Florida it appears that plane done took off……instead legislative support abounds for helping billionaires build new stadiums, sponsoring youth soccer and tennis mills.

A second factor and perhaps one with a better resolution for the future comes from Dania Jai Alai. The iconic facility has been closed for the majority of the 2014-15 season. Down over $10.5 million or 41.3%, the collective jai alai frontons in Florida were unable to come even close to the previous year in handle. Casino Miami’s jai alai was down considerably, as were the other three operations. It should change dramatically when Dania reopens this winter an upgraded fronton and racino; however; the money will be from the slots and only marginally from the rapidly fading legendary basque game.

The state’s 19 greyhound tracks were also down but a lesser amount considering the thoroughbred and jai alai handles. On $248 million in total handle the greyhounds were off $2.7 million or 1.1%. These tracks, with few exceptions were down but indeed, several managed positive seasons. The card rooms help sustain the dog track operations; however, the ever increasing pressure from animal rights groups, plus increased costs for the expensive live seasons mandate the yearly expensive trek by track officials to Tallahassee begging for tax relief or ultimately, decoupling (racing from poker).

Not all the pari-mutuel business was down for the year, Isle at Pompano’s harness racing joined its highly successful casino– enjoying an increase of almost $3 million, 6.9% in overall handle. Some of the increase may have been from handle that was previously being wagered at Calder. However, Pompano Park received a major injection of fan friendliness, technical improvements and higher levels of racing….all of which contributed to management’s commitment to the fans. Whatever the reason, the north Broward facility continues to attract gamers of all types.

Quarter Horses finished ahead of last year. The handle, while very small in comparison to the other entities increased 2.4% over 2014. The Hialeah season was considerably better than 2014 and with major expansion plans for that property there is optimism in the flamingo park.


July Gaming Net Slot Revenue

The gaming business continues to gain monthly and the new fiscal year has started with a 6.5% increase, $2.5 million more in Net Slot Revenue than last year and an extra $900,000 in tax revenue. The strength of casino gaming in South Florida (without posting any Tribal results) strongly indicates that the area still has more growth potential.

Some interesting individual slot operation business for July starts as usual with Isle at Pompano still #1 in NSR over $11.2 million up +10.2%; however, the percentage leader was Magic City ahead a very impressive +12.8%. Hialeah was up +12.1% and Casino Miami Jai Alai up +11.2%. Calder Casino had a more modest gain, but substantially ahead of last year by 4.4%. Its two neighboring South Broward racinos had vastly different results for July: Gulfstream Park up 10.9% and Mardi Gras off a meager 1.6%.

With over $2 million in total NSR for July the fiscal year starts with great possibilities. Dania’s slots should be cranking in late 2015/early 2016 in time for the “season” and located in a snowbird mecca in Fort Lauderdale. The State’s economy continues to percolate, tourism is up, finally more people are moving into the state than leaving the state….all should contribute to a very rosy picture.

July Card Rooms

The poker rooms also had a very good July with overall receipts at $11.7 million up $602,000 or 5.4%. The greyhound tracks had over $8 million of the action at their 19 card rooms. The Jacksonville and West Palm Beach facilities were, as usual, the leaders for July. The Quarter Horse facilities hosting poker had modest gains with Hialeah ahead of last year and Gretna behind. The Thoroughbreds, Jai Alai and Harness poker rooms trailed last year’s take.

Play remains strongest at greyhound tracks and it has stabilized at most other facilities around the State. If the legislature should adopt decoupling,  many, if not all, facilities will quickly offer only poker to patrons.



Word is that the Seminole Tribe and congressional leaders have met frequently in the past few weeks, however no concrete word from either party.


Georgia is looking into legalizing casino gambling, with meetings set for September to discuss the subject. State lawmakers will be meeting for the very first time to discuss casino gaming after MGM GRAND Announced publicly they are pushing to bring a Vegas style casino facility to the gambling free state.             REPORTED BY WORLD CASINO NEWS.


Cynthia O’Connell, Secretary of the Florida Lottery resigned in the wake of reports of unusual travel expenses and excessive vacation time. She was one of Governor Scott’s longest appointments. The Palm Beach Post uncovered some improprieties on her watch last year and the media has been diligent in uncovering more questionable activities since. Her resignation is effective 10/1. Lottery executive Tom Delacenserie will be interim secretary.


NBC 6 in Miami revealed the results of a study comparing the payouts of slot machines in each “Racino” in the two county area which legalizes such gambling in Florida.  Tribal Casinos were not included.

Here are the payouts at all seven faciities according to state records:

  • Magic City (Flagler Dog Track): 93.9 percent
  • Casino Miami (Miami Jai Alai): 93.5 percent
  • Hialeah Park: 93.3 percent
  • Gulfstream Park: 92.4 percent
  • Mardi Gras Casino: 91.9 percent
  • Isle of Capri (Pompano Dog Track): 91.6 percent
  • Calder Casino: 90.9 percent

The overall take was $183 Million from which the State of Florida takes 35%.

Unlike slot machines in many states, including Nevada, the take out % for each denomination of machine (1cent/2cent/5cent/25cent/50cent/$1/$5/$10 etc) must be posted. But, not in Florida.

The slots in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties take outs are determined by the owner of each facility. Consequently the Magic City management prefers a higher payout to create stronger return customers, vs Calder which prefers to offer more “free spins” to even the playing field.

Officials suggest that a 3% difference is a SIGNIFICANT difference to players at any amount.


Florida Gaming Watch reports the Ocala Jockey Club is getting together with EquiVentures to build a cross-country course on part of the club’s 950-acre grounds.

Leading international course designer Mike Etherington-Smith has already been signed on to oversee the new course, and Richard Jeffrey is the consultant for the stadium arena and course.

Additionally,  rumors persist that the stalemated talks between the Governor’s office and the Seminole Tribe to renew the expired compact are beginning again  quietly off campus. The current compact expires 10/25 at which time the Tribe would be required to stop offerning Black Jack at their 5 casinos. However, according to most officials involved…….that is unlikely that will happen.


Hialeah casino undergoing a massive renovation and expansion.

Hialeah casino 

Following a lengthy legal proceeding ,Hialeah Park will receive summer jai-alai permit in southernmost Miami-Dade County via Consent Order settling multiple cases against Division of PMW. The southern Miami-Dade County territory lacks an operating pari-mutuel facility and consequently no racino; in fact since the Tropical Park permit was incorporated into Calder Race Course (now Gulfstream Park West) there has been no LEGAL horse or dog racing in the vast and densely populated part of the county. Though much of south and western Miami Dade is agricultural (the breadbasket of the nation during winter) (and ornimental plants and orchid growers as well) the southeastern corridor from Coral Gables to Pinecrest to Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay on down to Princeton, Naranja and Homestead are growing and in many cases high income municipalities. Monroe County, which is the Florida Keys is also devoid of a legal gambling facility. There is a dog track permit for Key West but there has been no racing there for decades.  Gamblers in the Keys would certainly be a secondary source of attendees should a racino/casino be installed in south Miami Dade.

A new racino in south Miami Dade should prove to be a popular addition and now Hialeah has incentive to pursue it. Otherwise the 1Million+ people in that area must drive to Magic City (Flagler Dog Track) in the Little Havana inner city of Miami or go to the Miccosukee Tribe’s casino in the far western reaches of the county.


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. 

                                                                             Odds n’Ends

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.





The NFL season and NCAA football are beginning to twitch the sports writer columns and sports talk radio. The Dolphins are hot into pre-season games and UM is closing in on its final scrimmages before taking on FAU in the opener. We’ll have a look at the college football scene in our next epistle.

Hialeah Park is due to open its casino (slots) in late August. Though later than expected, the newest player on the racino landscape will surely have some impact on others……most likely Miami Jai Alai and Flagler (Magic City). As the results are published we will include in this column.

New Casino To Debut In Summer

New Casino To Debut In Summer

Casinos that are now open for business are: Seminole Hard Rock, Seminole Cypress Creek, Miccosukee Gaming, Isle Capri (Pompano Park) Mardi Gras (Hollywood), Calder (with live thoroughbred racing),Gulfstream, Miami Jai Alai, and Magic City (Flagler). Due to open end of year: Dania Jai Alai.

Catching up on local sports talk radio: WQAM 560 AM program director and afternoon drive talent, Jorge Sedano, leaves for ESPN Radio this fall. Sedano upgraded talent, added  diversity, and acquired a younger demo. He also brings ESPN  five years experience hosting Miami Heat TV programming, plus a Hispanic heritage.

Dan Lebatard (Miami Herald/ESPN/790AM The Ticket) highly rated afternoon drive for 10 years moves to afternoons on ESPN Radio (following Cowherd and the Mikes). His  Co-host is ESPN veteran Bamonte Jones who has appeared regularly Dan’s show for a year. The show will be Miami based with 3-4pm local talk,  4-7pm national. Stan Van Gundy is expected to continue as a weekly guest.

Dan Sileo, fired by WQAM earlier this year has surfaced as midday host on WMEN 640 AM serving mainly Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach.

BloodHorse Magazine reports that GP is spanking CRC in their first  dueling summer weekend meets. Gulfstream has nearly double the combined live and simulcast handle of Calder midway through their overlapping Saturday/Sunday racing.

NASCAR is having a so so season with most of the big names (Earnhart,Gordon, Edwards) firmly mired mid pack. Smoke broke a leg in a dirt track race and may be done for the season.The 48 car looks like he has his sights on recapturing the championship with Newman, Kahane, and possibly the 88 having something to say about it.

Beginning in August  we’re pleased to be back for our third year as Florida correspondants in GAMING TODAY, the venerable national sports/ gambling odds magazine published weekly out of Las Vegas. Our twice/month columns will be concentrating on things gambling and gaming and entertainment in our Sunshine State with occasional special visits to other major east coast communities and assesment of their gaming. The publication is on the web at


Several critical sports/gaming stories are occupying the Florida State Legislature as the session hits the midway point: The fate of the Miami Dolphins stadium refurbishing and outlawing the “internet” cafes.


The Dolphins are in a race for time as their cause célèbre to get their privately owned stadium renovated using public funds is directed at Miami being selected the Super Bowl site for 50 or 51. Though the legislature seems disposed to authorize a vote by Miami Dade County citizens to allow a hike in the local bed tax from 6-7%, it cannot happen unless a deal is struck with Miami Dade County. Herein lies the problem. County Mayor Gimenez wants guarantees of the Super Bowl coming to Miami soon. However,  he is keenly aware that the last time such a deal came down when the Miami Marlins wrangled a new tax payer supported  3 Billion Dollar stadium without a vote, it caused the recall of  the then sitting Mayor who championed that deal.

Another roadblock is the county law requiring 30 days notice to the public of a pending vote. With the NFL scheduled to announce the site of the next two Super Bowls on May 22, the County must schedule a vote on either May 7 or 14. But until Gimenez and other commissioners are satisfied with the exact terms of the deal, a vote cannot be scheduled.  Another key stumbling point is what portion of the 1% increase in the bed tax will go toward the stadium and what portion will go to the general tourism marketing budget, other expansion projects (Convention Center) etc.

Media research polls on Miami Dade likely voters forecast a strongly negative (30—70%) reaction to using public funding. Auto dealer and civic activist, Norman Braman has spearheaded the opposition. Epithets hurled at the respected Braman by Miami Dolphins president/hired gun, Mike Dee have not helped the situation.

The Dolphins have promised just about everything they can to turn the tide including offering to pay for the referendum (5-7 Million) if it’s allowed, guaranteeing to reimburse the funding for the stadium over 30 years (no interest), and returning the funding if a Super Bowl does not emerge in the very short term.

Hospitality industry owner/operators are split on the deal. Many are against charging their guests another 1% for something they’ll never see or use; many feel the prestige (Miami has hosted 5) of the game is an important marketing component. Economists generally agree that the economic impact from a Superbowl on the local economy is negligible. Miami and the Beaches are in full tourism snowbird mode at Superbowl time every year.

It remains to be seen if the vote is either a NO or never happens, will  Dolphins owner Ross pony up the difference from his billions.


The Internet Café kerfuffle actually started 5+ years ago when several legislators introduced a bill to regulate the fledgling industry. Mainly located in rural and suburban strip malls, the small operations attract mainly senior citizens. More than 1000 such facilities are active in the State. Though the machines in these cafes look, sound and act like typical Vegas style slots, the owner/operators claim they are simply recreational games that require some skill to win.

Well, they are wrong. Experts have determined they are illegal slot machines. But, because the internet café interests spread around considerable money among State politicians, the proposed regulatory legislation stalled every year. That was until local and federal agents discovered that the owners were part of a consortium operating under an umbrella of a not for profit bogus corporation. It seems that the profits, claimed to be distributed among Veterans charities, kept the preponderance of the café money for themselves. A further inspection by the feds uncovered  a number of the individuals involved from the top down to the local operators were convicted felons with multiple convictions from fraud to wire and check writing scams.

The search further uncovered that while in the legislature Jennifer Carroll, Lieutenant Governor of the State had a direct relationship with the bogus company based in Jacksonville. Turns out her public relations agency represented the bogus charity. She resigned immediately in early March. Governor Scott, who is engaged in a major reelection battle, has distanced himself as far as possible from the internet café scandal. A wide number of sitting senators and representatives were proven recipients of cash donated to their reelection funds by the bogus charity. CONSEQUENTLY, they’ve been redirecting their tainted money to bonafide charities as fast as they can.

Additionally bills in the House and Senate to outlaw the “internet cafes” have sailed through with little or no opposition and the Governor is in the process of signing into law. The opportunity to license and regulate the business passed when all the illegal activities and people were uncovered.  The Racino industry, as well as the Indian tribal casino operators, has been carefully watching the process of the cafe bills with great interest. There’s no question that their legal slot business has been impacted.

The real elephant in the room though, is the lack of a regulatory body for gambling in the State. Even the legal casinos, poker rooms, frontons and race tracks operate on a series of gray area rules and regulations developed over many years by politicians on a catch as catch can basis. A potent political office/department staffed by knowledgeable gaming/gambling experts is desperately needed to set course of the industry in the fourth largest State in the USA.

With massive, legalized internet gaming on the horizon as the next great frontier of the gambling dollar, Florida is ill equipped to handle any venture. Always clever promoters will be a step ahead and find ways to rob the state of fees and taxes. The legislature has authorized a blue ribbon committee to study the state of gambling in Florida and recommend steps/rules/programs to take and make the best advantage of the enormous income to the state created by legal gambling.



The racino revenue report for August is out. Here’s the Readers Digest version of the state of gaming around Florida: The first comment is WOW, what a difference from the numbers in July!!! Even though the NSR was only marginally ahead of July’s by just .7%, it showed a very healthy 16.67% ahead of the same Net Slot Revenue for 2011…decidedly a “mixed bag” of NSR with Gulfstream (prior to the flood), Mardi Gras, Magic City and Calder down from 2011 and Pompano and the newbie, Casino Miami Jai Alai up.

An interesting dynamic has emerged, as each of the two counties authorized by the state now hosts three facilities. Miami-Dade County operations show an NSR of $16,529,250 — a bit more than the combined NSR for Broward County: Pompano, Mardi Gras and Gulfstream: $15,814,369.

As usual for the first seven months of 2012, Pompano leads all the facilities in NSR. Pompano, Mardi Gras and Gulfstream are under their July numbers while the three Miami area racinos are all over their July 2012 NSR. Casino Miami Jai Alai is doing good business and continued to show a small increase for the month. Magic City, which had a disappointing July, regained its number 2 position overall and, appears to recapture a portion of business that defected to nearby Casino Miami Jai Alai.  Magic City is still a bit behind their 2011 July but only slightly. Calder remains steady with their business keeping step with their demographics.

Pompano and Calder are free standing racinos that cater to only slot and poker players. Though adjacent to the race tracks in both cases, the buildings, the signage, parking and the atmosphere is clearly CASINO. Some pari-mutuel crossover is likely; but emphasis is very strong on the casino.   Pompano and Calder are both owned and operated by large gaming companies and have resources to construct these freestanding racino buildings.

Any expansion considered by the State during the upcoming legislative session should give careful examination to the ability and motivation of prospective permit holders to build a free standing facility or extensively remodeling one to be competitive. To reiterate an ongoing opinion in this space: the State of Florida immediately needs a Gaming Regulatory Board with power to not only regulate and monitor,  but to ensure the most tax revenue for the State.




Odds n’Ends:

Fort Myers and Lee County are not the only candidates for new racino/slot parlors in the Sunshine State. The swells in Palm Beach County tired of watching customers and dollars flow south to the slot palaces in Broward and Miami Dade will go to the polls in November to approve machines in their county. According to the Palm Beach Post, the Palm Beach Kennel Club, a thriving concern in its own right, is the object of the referendum.

Benefiting from a two decade old law, the PBKC has successfully offered live greyhound racing, and substantial horse and dog track simulcasts including live signals from nearby Gulfstream Park.  Horse players have been known to skip the drive to see and bet live thoroughbreds at GP in favor of betting GP in the friendly confines of the PBKC—where they can also bet all the national thoroughbred signals, plus a bevy of dog tracks and jai alai and play poker.

There’s no doubt that adding slots to the dog track would have a significant impact on other nearby racinos: most probably Isle Capri (Pompano Park) which is the current revenue leader in the State. PBKC is located smack dab in the middle of downtown West Palm Beach with an exit off I95, across the street from the airport, and a hop, skip and jump from Worth Avenue, PGA National, Tiger Wood’s crib, and the Breakers.

Opponents note that the vote is at best a “hypothetical exercise” since the Attorney General of Florida proclaimed slots outside of constitutionally mandated Miami Dade and Broward Counties to be illegal.

Kennel Club owners, the Rooney family, through a spokesperson allege that PBKC has been losing customers to the nearby legal racinos thus causing a competitive disadvantage. Over 600,000 fans attended the track last year.

Here’s a surprising development at Casino Miami Jai Alai headlined in the South Florida Business Journal: The long time Miami landmark is in a foreclosure lawsuit brought by the lenders that financed its construction. ABC Funding which manages the loan for several funds, filed the suit against Florida Gaming Corp on September 5. It also filed a similar suit against the Fort Pierce Jai Alai which is secured by the same mortgage.

At first blush it appears that the Jai Alai owners/managers grossly overestimated potential revenues and assets by 14Million+dollars attributable to projections for the introduction of the slots.

We bid adieu to the boys of summer hosted in Florida as both the Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays finished out of the money. However, the new Marlins Stadium did well over 2Million in attendance, which was short of projections-but considering the lackluster performance of the team is encouraging for years to come. The future of the Rays remains cloudy, as a desperately needed ballpark in the Tampa Bay area is not going to happen in the foreseeable future….begs the question, with the Houston Astros now in the American League, where might the Devil Rays be relocated. A seemingly logical spot would be Orlando, which is the middle of the state, within short driving distance of Tampa, Fort Myers, Daytona and Jacksonville.  Hot Stove material until spring training. Only 171 days to pitchers and catchers.

BREAKING NEWS- The two incoming top leaders in the State legislature, Senate Prez Don Gaetz, and House Speaker Will Weatherford (both R) announced they plan to take a “time out” from the usual tweaking of gambling laws during the next two sessions to review the State’s posture and possibly create a State division for regulation—reported by the Orlando Sentinel.


As October lurks with the annual confluence of professional football, baseball, basketball, hockey and NCAA football, the radio media goes into hyper drive trying to score during the important November ratings sweeps. Here’s a look at this year’s radio sports talk wars inSouth Florida. Ridiculous as it may seem, the four SoFlo counties with 8 million people has 4 full time sports talk radio stations. That’s 3 too many. Even inNYNY, Philly, LA or DC,Minneapolis,DetroitorDallas, two all sports stations might survive.

 And, that does not include the huge Hispanic language radio arena.

 When WQAM 560, 790/104.3 WAXY “The Ticket”, 940 WINZ “The sports Animal” and 640 WMEN, go head to head, advertisers are in a quandary about buying their male 25-54 demographic. Consequently, high profile talent on these stations look to provide any edge to attractFORDorBUDor HARLEY. All four sports station’s ratings added together fall short of the top rated FM music station.

 560’s been at it for nearly 3 decades. 104.3 FM recently joined the fray by acquiring the programming of 790AM, 940AM carries the Miami Dolphins- the king of the broadcast rights in the market, and WMEN appeals to the Palm Beach/Boca market due to a weak signal.

 For 20 years 560 mega talents Neil Rogers, Hank Goldberg and Jim “Mad Dog” Mandich ruled the sports talk airwaves. In the last decade newcomer 790 put a dent in their ratings causing the 560 Beasley management to fire their high profile talents and their large salaries.  790 largely behind the edgy/broader approach of afternoon drive talent, Dan Le Batard assaulted the 560 and stole audience persistently.

 In late August 790 owner,LincolnFinancial, shook up the market by moving  790 sports talk to  FM 104.3. The move exposes their programming to triple the right demo audience of the AM band. Similar moves in other markets suggest this will catapult  the station into a dominant ratings position. Having the broadcast rights to theFloridaMarlins andMiamiHEAT can only add to the ratings. The remainder of the 790/104.3 programming features popular ESPN syndicated host Colin Cowherdmiddayand ex ESPN anchor and Heat TV commentator Jason Jackson.

 Answering back, WQAM 560 added veteran talent Jorge Sedano as afternoon drive host and program director. Formerly 790’s morning drive dj he also hosted late night nationally on Fox Sports Radio and is a television personality doing weekend sports. He also is a member of the Heat broadcast staff. With Dolphins/TV personality Joe Rose, longtime host of 560 morning drive the station remains competitive.  560 also carries the broadcast rights of theUniversityofMiami—an eroding but loyal audience. The remainder of the programming includes long time exTampasports talk fav and ex UM Hurricane andDallasCowboy player, Dan Sileomiddaysand a polished Kevin Rogers at night. The QAM weekend hosts are by far the best of the bunch. Mike Levine hosts a nightly hour of baseball only programming during season—the only of its kind and well done.  

  940 AM WINZ —a Clear Channel station was the market’s longtime all news/talker. The station recently turned all sports and  won the expensiveMiamiDolphins broadcast rights which are extremely expensive and involve a complicated advertising agreement with the team. The games are also broadcast on FM 105.9 a sister station. AMiamiDolphins program aired in afternoon drive is a part of the rights contract. Programming includes syndicated Mike and Mike mornings, Dan Patrick and Jim Romemiddays, long timeMiamisports talk maestro, Jeff Deforrest evenings and Artie Lang’s syndicated show late. The remainder of the airtime is dreadful.

 WMEN is making an attempt to be a player in the market, but also seems content to air the New York Yankees games and feature Imus graduate Sid Rosenberg in morning drive.Rosenbergwhose personal travails are well chronicled, has worked for 790 and 560 for short stints since moving toSouth Florida. He began to show signs while on WQAM of competing opposite Le Batard’s 790 show— when he had another drug/alcohol induced meltdown and was fired by the station. WMEN grabbed him when his non compete ended and is expectingRosenbergwith his national contacts to attract more audience to the station.  The remainder of the programming is weak at best.

 With at least 25% of the radio audience Hispanic, the Spanish broadcast rights for the major teams have a significant ratings impact. WAQI carries the Marlins with HOF broadcaster Felo Ramirez, WQBA with Raul Striker is the longtime Dolphin play by play man; QBA also carries the HEAT with entertaining Jose Paneda.  Those audiences are loyal. The ratings are strong. And the advertisers, especially the Hispanic directed retail and auto advertisers are prominent.

 TheMiamiDolphins, heard on both WINZ and FM 105.9 feature ex Dolphins Jimmy Cefalo Joe Rose and Bob Griese in the booth. Long time HEAT play by play man Mike Inglis with ex Heat guard John Crotty handle the live games on 790 (there’s some question if Heat games can also be simulcast on the new FM signal 104.3). TheFloridaPanthers on WQAM are ably broadcast by ex-NHLbad boy Randy Moller. The UM football games on WQAM feature longtime Hurricanes voice Joe Zagacki.

 On the casino front something fishy is indeed going on at Gulfstream Park. The popular 13 foot tall saltwater aquarium sprang a leak on September 3rd late at night. Water damage closed both the first and second floor casinos. Repairs were underway quickly to mop up the 10,000 gallons of water and seal the crack. More than a dozen fish including sharks and puffer fish were in the tank. Plans to reinstate the popular attraction were on hold as of mid month.


With all three Florida NFL franchises completing a less than stellar exhibition season and opening day looming, here’s our snapshot of what to expect. The Florida teams are all firmly mired in mediocrity. Their days of glory (and relevance) are long gone.

For the most part these Florida franchises are devoid of much (any) major talent, have solid but largely untested head coaches, and are in one stage or another of rebuilding (whether they admit to it or not).

We will be quite surprised if any of the three make it to the post season.

 Mularkey at J’Ville has the only head coaching experience (Bills) which was hardly Lombardiesque; Philbin at Miami successfully piloted the Aaron Rogers express as OC for the Pack; his taciturn, boy scout profile has been well documented to the nation at large on HARD KNOCKS on HBO; Schiano comes to the Bay from Rutgers (?) via the Jimmy Johnson pipeline of the glory days of the UM Hurricanes (also long gone). He is a buttoned down, detail oriented coach who astonishingly made Rutgers relevant. He could do same given time at Tampa.

All three coaches are well grounded, no nonsense, with mainly new and excellent staffs, and are not looking back. As usual though, their collective opponents are difficult—as is customary for the mediocre teams in the league– and all three will need to vastly overachieve, have more than average luck, and rely on three young and upcoming qb’s.  

The Jags probably have the easiest schedule on paper; nevertheless, they have Bills, Pats, Texans and Pack (in GB) on the schedule. The team performed poorly in the third pre season game vs. Ravens with Flacco completing passes long and short effortlessly. Gabbert in 2.5 quarters accumulated a grand total of 3 points. MJD’s absence is huge.

The Jags hope to take advantage of Peyton Manning’s departure from the division and sneak into the post season crowd.  Doubtful.  Also rumored to be the next Los Angeles NFL franchise, the team has committed to the NFL to play season games for the next four years in London. HELLO???

The Bucs have a daunting out of conference schedule including the Giants, Iggles and Falcons. Miami always has the Jets, Pats and Bills in division, but gets a slightly easier out of division schedule— still facing the  49rs and Texans.

The first round draft picks of all three Florida NFL teams must produce early and often for any of the teams to rise above 500.  Dolphins QB Tannehill has a rifle and is an immediate locker room favorite. He appears cool and calm in the pocket and knows OC Mike Sherman’s (Texas A&M) playbook backwards and forwards. His Marinoesque pocket savvy and quick release may help make up for the astonishing lack of talent as 85 and Brandon Marshall are gone. Reggie Bush had an excellent 2011. Whether or not Philbin and Sherman capitalize on his considerable talent remains to be seen. The strong OL is a major plus. If Bush goes down, there’s little else in the running game.

The Dolphin defense and special teams were above average last year but the d appears to be floundering in the exhibition season.

 Tampa rookie Doug Martin should fit well with Schiano’s bull- in- a- china- shop running game; Saban schooled safety Mark Barron will shore up the weak Bucs D backfield.  QB Freeman has a year under his belt and has a bit more fire power than last year with Vincent Jackson at WR in from the Chargers. Rookie Lavont David is expected to help greatly improve the D line. Schiano is going the draft route to rebuild. He knows talent and is considered an excellent game day coach.

With all three teams hunting and pecking through their nebulous talent bases, there’s diminished optimism among the three fan bases. To say the least all three metro areas are first and foremost NFL football towns. The slings and arrows of the Dolphins, Jags and Buc’s DOMINATE local airwaves and ink. Talk show hosts are fending callers venom daily.

Sports talk radio in the northern part of the state has developed more positive chatter about the Gators and Noles while the southern tier Dolphins fans remain passionate and tepidly optimistic. New uberowner Steven Ross inherited a weakening fan and season ticket base and has done little to bolster either.  Miami is and always has been a Dolphins town but with the Lebron’s sneaking up fast in fan passion the once sacrosanct Dolphin brand is tarnished.

Ross’s marketing approach seems to center on attracting celebs like Gloria Estefan, JLo, Marc Anthony, Serena and Venus Williams who are trotted out on a red carpet prior to each home game. Whatever Ross’s reasoning this charade has turned off the (Shula era) faithful. But, with little else to sell perhaps he and his brain trust are looking to separate the current product from the glory of the past. If that is the goal, it is working. 

Our Predictions: Bucs 5-11, Jags 6-10, Fins 5-11