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Poker again reigns supreme over racing events

It was in the cards — again.

For the 10th time in the past 11 years, poker rooms in Florida continued their tremendous growth while wagering at parimutuel windows suffered another decline.

The Florida Division of Parimutuel Wagering reported in fiscal year 2015-16, which ended June 30, that poker reached an all-time high in gross and tournament receipts at $147,298,438 at the state's 24 card rooms. It was an increase of 8.4 percent from the previous year. At the opposite end of that trend was the combined wagering on greyhounds, thoroughbreds, standardbreds, quarter horses and jai-alai. Betting on those events fell to its lowest level in more than a decade to $740,622,947, a 4.97 percent dip over the past 12 months at the 36 sites that reported handle.

Since 2005-06, poker has increased a resounding 231.5 percent, while wagering on the other parimutuel events has fallen 51.1 percent from $1,514,758,761.

Derby Lane, the greyhound track in St. Petersburg; Tampa Greyhound, which is a simulcast and poker facility and no longer hosts live dog racing; and Tampa Bay Downs, the thoroughbred facility in Oldsmar, followed that pattern. Total parimutuel money wagered on the product from the area's three sites all were down: Derby Lane, 10.39 percent at $20,765,186; Tampa Greyhound, 1.54 percent at $19,998,143; and the Downs, 13.9 percent at $84,371,778.

Derby Lane ranked third among the 19 state greyhound associations that reported money wagered, while Tampa Greyhound, which is owned by the Downs and runs its live meet at Derby Lane, was fourth. The top dog track was West Palm Beach Kennel Club at $42,076,010.

The Downs had the state's second-largest total handle behind Gulfstream Park Racing and Casino, the Hallandale Beach complex which reported $285,536,041.

Wagering on state greyhound racing was down 3.57 percent at $239,916,510, while thoroughbred betting was off 5.73 percent at $441,314,652.

Derby Lane remained one of Florida's top destinations for playing cards. Its gross and tournament receipts were up 3 percent at $8,836,454, fourth best among greyhound tracks and fifth at all state venues. The Downs ranked 14th overall after a 4.57 percent jump to $4.452.221. Poker play at Tampa Greyhound was down 7.2 percent at $1,962,819. Topping all Florida card rooms was Jacksonville Kennel Club at $20,627,676.

HORSES: Training began Tuesday at the Downs, which is preparing for the resumption of its 91st year of racing, Nov. 26. There has not been any live action at the Oldsmar oval since July 1. Horses are on the track daily from 6 to 10 a.m. The Downs will kick off its 24-race stakes schedule Dec. 3 with the Inaugural and Sandpiper, both $100,000 6-furlong sprints for 2-year-olds. The 91-day meet features six graded stakes, topped by the Grade II $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby on Festival Day on March 11.

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