for months, follow the articles.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Gulfstream Park's president quits suddenly
By Nick SortalOctober 31, 2009
Gulfstream Park President Bill Murphy resigned Saturday, according to a company press release.
Murphy could not be reached for comment and no reason was given for his abrupt resignation, which took effect Friday.
Murphy joined the Hallandale Beach horse track and casino in June 2006 as a vice president in charge of racing. Gulfstream's parent company, Magna Entertainment Corp., promoted him to president and general manager in January 2007.
Just prior to his promotion, Gulfstream Park added slot machines and in February, 2010, it plans to open a $1.2 billion mall with restaurants, nightclubs and stores, including a Crate and Barrel and a Pottery Barn.
The casino's slots revenues run third behind the Isle Casino & Racing in Pompano Beach and Mardi Gras Gaming & Racetrack in Hallandale Beach. But Murphy, who in an interview last month called himself "more of a horse guy than a casino guy," pointed out that neither of those racinos have the racing revenues Gulfstream does. Four of the past seven Kentucky Derby winners raced at Gulfstream.
State figures also show Gulfstream is the only of the three with an increase in slot revenues this year; they're up 5 percent.
Magna, however, declared bankruptcy in March and is selling off pieces of the company, including a horse track last month. Experts had suggested Gulfstream would not be for sale but a recent Wall Street Journal article suggested creditors are pushing for Gulfstream to be auctioned off in February.
In 2007, Gulfstream got into trouble with the state after it was discovered that employees had stolen hundreds of thousands from machines using free-play cards. There also were delays in building The Village at Gulfstream, which was supposed to open two years ago.
The state this past August said it would fine Gulfstream $800,000 in the theft, citing poor oversight. But Gulfstream is arguing that the state, which screens the hires, cleared two perpetrators who had criminal histories.
In the news release, Murphy thanked Magna for "the opportunity, and honor, of working with an incredible staff and with the greatest horsemen and jockeys in the world."
Nick Sortal can be reached at email@example.com or 954-356-4725.
Tracks to go on block
Bankruptcy judge OKs auction of Pimlico, Laurel early next year
By Hannah Cho
Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park early next year, over objections from the tracks' former owners, who opposed the speed of the sale.
Meanwhile, two potential Maryland buyers - developers David S. Cordish and Carl Verstandig - reiterated their interest in bidding on the tracks and the Preakness Stakes.
Magna Entertainment Corp., the Canadian firm that owns the racetracks and the Preakness Stakes and filed for bankruptcy protection in March, said the auction should be held quickly because Maryland law gives the state 60 days to review a deal and the right to match any bid.
The sale procedures also would require potential buyers to keep the Preakness, the middle leg of racing's Triple Crown, in Maryland, satisfying concerns of the state and others in the horse industry who had feared losing the state's single largest sporting event.
But Benjamin Feder, a lawyer representing Joseph De Francis and other former owners, argued that the sale procedures do not consider the group's rights to slots and other alternative gambling at the racetracks, particularly at Laurel Park. When the former owners sold their controlling interest in the Maryland Jockey Club, the umbrella organization for the two tracks, they entered into a deal with Magna to split the proceeds from any alternative gambling development.
Feder also revealed in court that De Francis and other former owners have engaged in talks with Magna about the Jockey Club assets.
De Francis said the group has submitted several proposals on "how they might recapitalize the Maryland assets and allow them to emerge from bankruptcy."
Asked whether any of the plans include the group buying back the tracks, De Francis said he could not discuss the details.
"We continue to be very disappointed that the Maryland assets are in bankruptcy and very interested in any plan that might bring them out of bankruptcy and restore them to viability," he said.
Magna, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March, withdrew a proposal to auction the Maryland tracks last spring, in part because of objections by the state. That plan did not take into account the state's "right of first refusal" for the Preakness, which has a "chilling effect" on Magna's sale efforts, according to court papers filed by the company last week.
To ensure that the Preakness would stay in Baltimore, Maryland lawmakers passed a law this year granting the state the right to seize the event under eminent domain.
After the hearing before Judge Mary F. Walrath in federal bankruptcy court in Delaware, Gregory Cross, a Venable LLP bankruptcy attorney retained by the state of Maryland, said, "We have agreement that the Preakness will remain in the state, the state's matching right to the Preakness is taken into account in the sale, and the state will be afforded the opportunity to review all prospective purchasers in advance.
"We didn't have any of that in the spring. Our position has significantly improved. Most importantly, the Preakness is staying in the state," Cross said.
The auction procedure for the tracks has several steps.
Potential bidders have until Nov. 2 to submit proposals to Magna. They must provide a 10 percent deposit, as well as evidence that they have the money to complete the deal.
On Nov. 9, Magna is to give the court a lead, or "stalking horse," bid for the Maryland assets. The state is to receive the names of the other bidders on Dec. 7, but they won't be released to the public.
The auction of the Maryland assets is to be held on Jan. 8.
Besides reviewing bids, the state has preserved its right to request that it be allowed to match the winning bid from the auction.
Cordish, whose Cordish Cos. is being considered for Anne Arundel County's sole license to operate slot machines, said this week that the company is "very excited about the prospect of buying the tracks and the Preakness."
The Anne Arundel County Council has not approved a zoning change needed for the Cordish slots project to proceed. Cordish said his proposal for a casino at Arundel Mills will not change.
"We will be sending over $60 million a year to the tracks from slots revenues at [Arundel] Mills," he said. "It makes sense for us to own the tracks. We will have the resources to revitalize the horse industry in Maryland and return it to its former glory."
Verstandig, whose America's Realty LLC in Pikesville often invests in distressed urban shopping centers, said he and a partner with experience in horse racing would upgrade the two racetracks and attract other entertainment venues. They also would build office and retail space on land around the tracks.
"Since they came into play again, we want to try again," he said.
Nov. 2: Bids due.
Nov. 9: Magna will provide to the court a lead, or "stalking horse," bid for the Maryland assets.
Dec. 7: The state will be given names of other bidders.
Jan. 8: Auction
The following are selected excerpts from an
email that I sent around South Florida and
points north on the evening of October 27th,
It was sent to people I know and trust, certain
elected officials throughout the region and state,
and certain savvy members of the news media,
all of whom have an interest to some degree
or another in whether or not Gulfstream Park
Race Track and the upcoming Village at
Gulfstream retail center -scheduled to open
at the beginning of February- will be run
in a smart and dynamic way, or whether they
will continue to flounder in all sorts of embarrassing
and self-evident ways, as has been the case since
I returned to South Florida six years ago.
Anne Arundel County, described above in the
Baltimore Sun article, is home to Annapolis,
where the state capitol and state legislature are
located, along with the U.S. Naval Academy
and a few well-regarded liberal arts schools,
so it's very upscale with small enclaves of rural
chic on the water and elsewhere.
Think J.G. Hook preppy chic on the Harbor.
Because of its ideal location, it's equally popular
with folks from both the Baltimore area and
the greater Washington area.
In an average year, I'd probably go up there
from Arlington County maybe 6-8 times with
To my mind, there's no real counterpart to it in
Florida as a whole, which is a shame, because
the historical charm is a real draw and doesn't
seem bogus and contrived the way so many
things down here do.
Despite all the tourists, you can still feel the
authenticity of history there, and for someone
like me with my particular interests, that's
Meanwhile, over at Gulfstream Park,
another Magna property, the same old
incompetence continues, with little apparent
regard for appearance, customer safety or
appeal, with visible trash in the same place
as it was last week and the week before that...
Last night, as has been the case more often than
you'd think possible for a business that's in the
entertainment business and wants you to come
onto their property, ALL the access, auxiliary
and parking lot lights from the entrances on both
U.S.-1 and Hallandale Beach Blvd., to far onto
the main area, were out.
All of them.
At 7:55 p.m., when sundown is around
And they wonder why things are the way
Below, just a few photos from among the hundreds
I've talen over the past few years showing what's
really been going on at the place that ought to be
a real magnet for fun and amusement for the region,
and a local source of pride, but which instead is
an often dreary, myopic and poorly-managed
mess of an operation that can't seem to get out
of its own way.
In the near-future, you'll see even more confounding
and jaw-dropping photos in this space highlighting
often self-evident problems, but for now, here's a
quick bite to whet your appetite and open your
eyes a bit wider.
All photos below by South Beach Hoosier.
Above, the newly-built median entrance off U.S.-1
that does absolutely nothing to fix the longstanding
drainage (read flooding) problem there that goes
back many years and years...
Standing water often remains there for quite some
time, which doesn't exactly create an inviting
atmosphere for customers who have plenty of
Seriously, why has that not ever been
Above, the bottom portion of the Gulfstream Park
sign on the Northwest corner of the property, facing
south-bound traffic on U.S.-1/South Federal Highway.
Located on Hibiscus (i.e S.E. 2nd Street) just off of
U.S.-1 -and near the Forest City office trailer-
the sign used to be internally illuminated, but then
became external early this year, with a view of the
main buildings peeking thru at the bottom.
That sign hasn't been illuminated at night,
internally or externally, since around
Thanksgiving or so!
Nothing shows the lack of respect for potential
customers and the lack of first-class public relations
like half-assed negligence that never ends.
In fact, one of the two spotlights on the ground
in front of the sign that could be used to actually
shine a light on the situation has been missing for
many. many months.
As you can see for yourself, they don't even bother
trying to keep up appearances there.
That's a VERY bad sign for customers looking to
spend their money somewhere that's properly run
For the better part of the first six months of this
year, while the track was open, the track had rental
message boards plopped quite unattractively on the
median of south-bound U.S.-1, desperate to remind
people passing by that the place was actually open.
Naturally, this being South Florida, the sign was in
English, French and Spanish, but I never really quite
understood how it was that Gulfstream was able
to legally keep those signs on public property for
months on end.
It made the whole area look blighted!
Above, as if their very own promotional sign not working
for about a year isn't bad enough, it doesn't really help that
they also allowed vines and vegetation to grow eight-feet
high and higher, and start taking over the damn sign.
It doesn't just look like nobody cares cares,
when you're standing there, it feels like nobody cares.
It's not Wrigley Field chic, it's just unsightly.
Above, looking south from the Hallandale Beach Blvd.
entrance to the facility towards the pitch-black conditions
on the access road and the fairly-new employee dorms.
In case you didn't know, the dorms are right in the way
of extending S.E .2nd Street to 14th Avenue, a plan the
city has been considering since the early 1970's to
unclog the unbearable traffic conditions of HBB.
The road is necessary for some of the planned
development projects on HBB, like Oasis, in order
to prevent the current traffic saturation from getting
even worse for longer periods of time than currently.
Question: Why did the Hallandale Beach P&Z
Advisory Board and the HB City Commission
both vote to give Gulfstream Park the okay to
build the two separate dorm buildings there a few
years ago if they ALREADY KNEW that the
specific area was absolutely crucial to the city's
ever being liveable in the future?
Four people involved in that asinine decision are
still wrecking havic at HB City Hall:
Mayor Joy Cooper and Commissioners Dotty
Ross and William Julian.
The next time you see one of them, why don't you
ask them to answer the simple question of Why?,
and to explain to you why they refuse to give HB
City Manager Mike Good specific guidelines and
deadlines in negotiating with Gulfstream and Magna,
instead of simply letting him do whatever he wants,
with absolutely no oversight ro speak of, and with
hundreds of thousands of dollars to play with?
What some in this city call 'rogue negotiations.'
You'll be reading and seeing a lot more on
the topic of the extension of S.E. 2nd here
in the coming weeks and months.
Lots and lots of photos!
Reminder: The only reason you actually
see the road in the photo above is the
flash from my camera.
Above, one of the unlit auxiliary lights near
Above, from the same exact location as the previous
photo looking north towards HBB after a car has
passed in the dark of night.
Above, the unlit double-lights near the interior
of the public parking lot.
Oh well, at least the illuminated signs for
Crate & Barrel on U.S.-1 are working
at The Village at Gulfstream, three
months before the retail complex opens.
All the shots above are from Tuesday
It's fair to say that the series of posts I'll be
writing here about Gulfstream Park and
The Village at Gulfstream over the next
few weeks and months will include more
than their share of ripping and constructive
criticism, based on self-evident facts that
I've personally observed over the past
Part of that is a natural byproduct of what
I and many others in the community have
perceived as Gulfstream's very dismissive
know-it-all attitude towards those who
aren't already part of their co-opted little
family in Hallandale Beach and this part
of South Florida.
I suspect that many, if not most of you,
will come to learn a lot of things you never
knew or noticed before about them and their
myriad operations, including a few interesting
history lessons about how rocky things have
been in the past between the race track and
the city since it was first built.
But I'll also have some very good practical
and well-thought out suggestions for making
things much more interesting and fun over
there, because quite frankly, interesting and
fun is NOT at all what it is now, or has been
in the recent past.
Some of my suggestions may even strike you
as inspired, but many will seem like common
sense and may even be ones that you've
thought about yourself over the years.
I make the suggestions because I want it to be
better than it is now, or seems to aspire to be.
But it won't always be pretty, of that I have
And when I say that I've taken hundreds of
photos, I'm not joking.
I have plenty already to prove my central points.