BestBet has plans to develop a slot machine licensed pari-mutuel facility in St. Johns County on the northeast corner of State Road 207 and Interstate 95. The company currently operates BestBet Orange Park and BestBet Jacksonville while its St. Johns Greyhound Park on Race Track Road was shut down in 2012.
The commissioners in St. Johns County have scheduled a meeting on July 19 to discuss the proposal and decide if a referendum is required to allow slot machine gaming in the county. They will also discuss a separate provision put forward by BestBet where the county will receive 1.5 percent of the gross slot machine revenue generated from the new facility, which will be remitted on a monthly basis.
BestBet has informed the county that it is not looking for a new gaming license but wants an expansion of the current entertainment to make provision for slot machines. The company also stated that its suggestion to share 1.5 percent of slot machine revenue is similar to what it had proposed to the City of Jacksonville. Should the commission decide to move ahead with BestBet’s proposal, the proposal will be put on a ballot this November and residents will have to vote and confirm if they want a new slot machine and entertainment facility in the county.
The Innovation Group based out of New Orleans was hired by BestBet to prepare an economic impact and feasibility analysis that the proposed slot gaming establishment would have on St. Johns County. The report stated that after the first stabilized year of operation which is 2020, the facility will record close to 4 million visitors and generate around $329 million in revenue. The county will receive $4.7 million from its 1.5 percent sharing agreement and also benefit both directly and indirectly as the new facility will create around 1,400 employment opportunities and more than $48 million will be paid out in salaries and benefits.
Should BestBet get the required approval, the company will invest $133 million to develop the new facility which will also include a hotel, restaurant and a bar. The hotel will also be responsible for generating an additional $300,000 to the county in the form of property and bed taxes. Doug Timms, the director of the Office of Management and Budget prepared an interoffice memorandum and sent it across to Michael Wanchick, the County Administrator stating that while the proposal did appear attractive there were a few concerns that stood out.
The memorandum said “The average slot revenue per visit calculates to $85.25. This revenue, on which the $4.7 million County revenue is entirely dependent, can be volatile and likely will decline as the facility ages. For example, average slot revenue per visit of $50 would reduce annual County revenue to $2.8 million.”