Calder Casino ruled last week by a Florida appeal court that the Miami-area circuit can halt horse racing, but give jai alai instead, whilst proceeding to run its casino.
The unanimous choice affirms responses given last year by Calder representatives to the Pari-Mutuel Racing Division. The Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owner’s Association (FTBOA) and Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. questioned the reply of the division, bringing the issue to the scheme of state court.
A constitutional amendment enacted 15 years earlier in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties grants pari-mutuel locations the power to add slots. Calder is situated in Dade County, Miami Gardens.
“Contrary to the appellants’ arguments, nothing… requires a facility to continue the same form of pari-mutuel wagering activity that originally qualified it for a slot machine license; nor does this statute tie an ‘eligible facility’ to the same type of racing or gaming as it had when the constitutional amendment was approved,” the judges’ opinion stated.
The track’s first competitions were held in 1971, with the casino opening nine years ago. The stadium, then referred as the Calder Race Course, was purchased by Churchill Downs Inc. 20 years ago.
Churchill Downs announced an arrangement in May 2014 with The Stronach Group (TSG), which owned and runs Gulfstream Park, approximately 9 miles south of Calder. TSG agreed to lease the track from Churchill Downs under the terms of the deal and run for 40 days, the minimum number of Florida dates required to offer slots.
Then TSG renamed the Calder circuit as Gulfstream Park West, while Churchill maintained the casino’s initial track title. At the moment, representatives from Churchill Downs said the change was essential due to the tiny population of South Florida thoroughbred racing.
Next year this lease arrangement will expire which would open the gate for representatives from Calder to finish racing after meeting in 2020.
Calder representatives ripped down their grandstand after the lease came into force. Furthermore, Calder authorities pulled down all the stables that were not used to satisfy the Gulfstream Park.
In February 2018, Calder was granted a state permit to offer pari-mutuel betting on jai alai. Four months earlier, it launched it’s jai alai court.
The meeting of the Gulfstream Park West starts on Wednesday and runs through November 24.
Whether the case will be transferred to the Supreme Court of Florida continues to be seen. But even if the FTBOA and Ocala seek an application, there is no assurance that it would be considered by the supreme tribunal of the state.
If Calder goes through and ceases racing, then the issue becomes whether Gulfstream would consider adding additional dates to its Hallandale Beach facility to bring up the missed dates or whether horsemen would have to look elsewhere to make up the lost revenue.
Obviously, following the decision of the appeal court, followers of horse racing are worried about the future.
“Florida continuing to make decisions positive for horse racing. Not,” tweeted Pat Cummings, executive director of the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation “My friends, we need to WAKE UP.”
The wake-up call from Cummings is not just for followers of racing close South Beach, adding in a subsequent tweet: “Pennsylvania…beware. The more sustainable racing can be on its own, the better. 90% of prize money from slots is not it…”