July 25, 2014

Stacking the Deck: Gambling is Growing in Southeast Florida

The Seminole Tribe's Coconut Creek casino is completing a $100 million expansion in north Broward.

Mike Vogel | 8/2/2011
Michael Michaud
Coconut Creek vice president of marketing Michael Michaud sees opportunity north of Broward. [Photo: Anthony John Coletti]

Over the next six months, the Seminole Tribe's Coconut Creek casino in north Broward will complete a more than $100-million expansion — its third in four years — more than doubling its gambling floor, expanding its poker room and adding a 2,400-car garage. With eight casinos fighting over the Broward and Miami-Dade market, the untapped market is north, says Coconut Creek vice president of marketing Michael Michaud.

That's trouble for competitors to the north — the Palm Beach Kennel Club in West Palm Beach and Fort Pierce Jai Alai. Seminole Coconut Creek already spends most of its advertising money in Palm Beach County and has vendor companies that shuttle customers from there by bus.

According to state reports, Palm Beach Kennel's racing handle is down 26% in the last three years, but its overall gambling revenue is down only 13%, thanks to growth in poker. Fort Pierce Jai Alai, meanwhile, has seen its small gambling revenue rise with a growth in its handle and the introduction of poker. Nevertheless, its parent, Florida Gaming, also the parent of Miami Jai Alai, lost $4.8 million in the year ended Dec. 31 and had a "going concern" warning in its year-end financials. It recently closed an $87-million term loan to recapitalize the company and is adding a casino floor with 1,000 slots to its Miami fronton as well as a new card room for poker and dominoes.

But slots remain prohibited in Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties. "We would certainly love to be on an even playing field with people down to the south of us," says Theresa Hume, Palm Beach Kennel publicity director.

The odds of that happening are anyone's guess in Florida's perpetually in-play gambling regulatory scheme. This year, mega-casino operators unsuccessfully sought legislative permission for destination casinos while pari-mutuel owners — led by the owner of the Mardi Gras dog track and slot and poker facility in Hallandale — tried and failed to change state law to allow them to discontinue live racing.

Hume says Palm Beach Kennel will grow any way it can. Its poker room, with 64 tables, is the largest in Florida and last year was second only to Isle Casino in Pompano Beach in gross receipts. "Our shining spot is our poker room," says Hume.

Broward/Treasure Coast Pari-Mutuels
? Revenue in millions
Category 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10
Pari-mutuel handle $96.6 $87.4 $75.3 $66.1
Card room gross $16.1 $27.1 $31.3 $31.9
Slots $49.7 $120.6 $103.9 $101.1

Tags: Dining & Travel, Southeast

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