FORT LAUDERDALE, FL. An article by Kathleen Haughney in the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that a Florida senate bill to establish destination-type casinos originally was meant to limit gambling in the Sunshine State. However, the bill was modified so much that, if enacted into law, every geographical sector of Florida can have at least slot machines, subject to approval by voters in the various communities.

Dade County (Miami) and adjacent Broward County are presently home to seven racinos operating at horse-racing and dog-racing tracks. Under the enlarged senate bill, these racinos would be able to expand into full-scale casinos. In addition, racinos would have their current 35 percent tax rate reduced to the 10 percent rate proposed for casinos.

The outlook is that the senate bill will not become law in 2012, but may in 2013. Whatever the year, vastly augmented gambling is most likely  coming to Florida in the near future because the state requires the revenue and needs the destination casinos for tourism. When that occurs, Calder, Gulfstream Park, Pompano Park, and Tampa Bay Downs, will morph into full-line casinos that happen to have horse racing as part of their overall product mix.

Whether additional gambling is a pro or con for horse racing remains to be seen. The experience with racinos in other venues does not suggest that larger crowds who come to gamble translate into more betting on horse racing.

Rather than handwringing and lamenting the future competition from casino gambling, horse racing needs to figure out how to offer a more competitive product, particularly when it comes to fuller fields and lower takeout. With the prospects dramatically improving for legalization of full-scale casino gambling, bloodstock interests unfortunately can’t count on the racetracks to make a concerted effort in this regard.

Copyright © 2012 Horse Racing Business

Click here to read the South Florida Sun Sentinel article.