ST. PETERSBURG — Eighteen miles separate Derby Lane and Tampa Greyhound Track. They will be one in the same next season.
Both greyhound tracks have been granted a six-month racing permit in 2008-09 by the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation-Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering. That doesn't mean alternating meets at the two facilities, a common practice from 1992-2007.
Instead, Tampa will run its meet at Derby Lane, which will then host its meet to close out what will be another year-round campaign at the St. Petersburg track.
Beginning July 1, Tampa will run 237 performances through Dec. 31. Derby Lane will follow with 232 performances from Jan. 1 until June 30, 2009. Neither meet includes Sunday racing. Derby Lane's current schedule of nine weekly performances is expected to remain intact.
"Each (greyhound) permit holder paid their own parimutuel and card-room taxes and fees," DBPR deputy press secretary Sam Farkas said. "Tampa and Derby Lane will each continue their six-month season in a mini-circuit, with Tampa Greyhound running their performances at Derby Lane, and operating simulcasting and their card room at the Tampa facility, just like the current year."
Tampa Bay Downs, the thoroughbred track in Oldsmar, will remain status quo with another 94-day meet from Dec. 19 through May 3, 2009. All three facilities will continue to offer simulcast wagering and operate card rooms daily.
"We were going to apply for year-round dates," Derby Lane spokeswoman Vera Filipelli said, "but Tampa approached us about running their dates again at Derby Lane. That's what we decided to do. It is a business decision that works well with both tracks."
Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Kennel operators are expected to receive contracts in April, offering year-round racing.
Tampa didn't return a telephone call for comment.
In the 2007-08 season, Derby Lane and Tampa each were granted permits to race year-round for the first time in history, beginning July 1.
The head-to-head competition didn't last long. Citing a business decision, Tampa canceled live racing Aug. 18 — 49 days and 56 performances into the meet. Both tracks then submitted applications to amend their original dates with all racing to be at Derby Lane. Tampa's dates were Aug. 20 through Dec. 31; Derby Lane dates adjusted to Jan. 1 through June 30.
The Tampa move was necessary because a Florida statute requires greyhound permit holders to run at least 100 performances in a season.
"As long as they are conducting simulcasting there at Tampa and they're leasing the rest of their meet at Derby Lane — which is allowed under (Statute) 550.475 — they can operate the card room," state Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering director David Roberts said.
Statute 550.475 states that holders of valid parimutuel permits are entitled to lease any and all of their facilities to any other holder of the same permit, when located within 35 miles of each other. The permit holder for the meet is responsible to pay state tax revenues.
Roberts said popularity of poker in recent years led parimutuel facilities to add live performances since the two were linked. But changes in the state law (Senate Bill 752 and Statute 849.086) took effect July 1, allowing tracks to operate card rooms without live racing.
AROUND THE TRACKS: Third-round qualifying in the $100,000 Distance Classic is tonight in Races 6 (8:50) and 10 (10:10) at Derby Lane. … Flying Stanley attempts to defend his title tonight (Race 12, 10:30) in the Hollywood World Classic at Mardi Gras Racetrack in Hallandale Beach. … A total of 111 horses have been nominated for six $85,000 stakes races on Florida Cup Day (April 5) at Tampa Bay Downs.