Anne M. Eberhardt

Churchill Downs Stands Out Among CDI Tracks

Louisville track received big boost from Kentucky Derby and Oaks.

Boosted by record earnings during Kentucky Derby Week, wagering at Churchill Downs fared much better through the first six months of 2010 than tracks have on the national level.

According to the quarterly and six-month report released by Churchill Downs, Inc. on Aug. 4, total wagering at Churchill Downs in Louisville of $446.3 million during the first half of this year was down 3% from the $461.5 million figure for the same period in 2009.

That is half the national rate of handle decline of 6% for the same period.

The track also reported net pari-mutuel revenues fell 4% during the first six months, to $34.9 million. In its report, the track noted that earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization for Derby Week soared to a record level and were up $3.4 million from 2009.

Betting on the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) card totaled $162.7 million, up 4.5% from the previous year. The $36 million wagered on the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) card reflected a 20% increase.

The flagship track was the lone shining light for wagering on horse racing at tracks operating under the CDI umbrella. By comparison, for the first half of this year, total handle and net pari-mutuel revenues declined 20% and 23% respectively at Arlington Park, were down 14% and 9% at Calder Racecourse, and fell 19% and 11% at Fair Grounds.

By track, here are the respective handle and pari-mutuel commission totals for the other CDI tracks through the first six months of this year: Arlington, $277.7 million handle, $29.1 million commissions; Calder, $194.5 million handle, $19 million commissions; Fair Grounds, $288 million handle, $22.4 million commissions.

Churchill Downs does not report wagering and attendance figures for its tracks, so the company’s economic trends are only available through reports CDI files as a publicly held company.

For the three-month period ending June 30, revenues at the Calder and Fair Grounds casinos increased from $15.4 million in 2009 to $28.2 million this year. Churchill Downs Inc. president and CEO Robert Evans said most of that increase was due to the opening of the Calder casino in January, while the Fair Grounds casino numbers were "flat."

During the second quarter, account-wagering revenues totaled $29.4 million, compared with $20.8 million in 2009 to $29.4 million and increased by 30% during the first six months of the year. According to Evans, betting at increased 11% during the second quarter.