CDI Won't Renew NTRA Membership for 2010

Churchill Downs Inc. won't renew its NTRA membership this year.

Churchill Downs Inc., operator of four major racetracks in the United States, has informed the National Thoroughbred Racing Association via letter it won’t renew its membership for 2010.

CDI reviews its NTRA membership each year. There have been indications in the past the company planned to drop out but didn’t do so until this year.

CDI pays a total of $375,000 a year in membership for four tracks: Arlington Park, Calder Casino & Race Course, Churchill Downs, and Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. In 2007 that figure was at twice as much, but the NTRA has substantial reduced dues the past two years.

“(CDI) cited the economy and declines in U.S. handle as their reasons for dropping out,” NTRA senior vice president Keith Chamblin said May 7. “It’s not as big a blur to the bottom line as it would have been two years ago, but it is still $375,000.”

Membership dues from tracks and horsemen’s groups now account for about 50% of the NTRA budget; early on the figure was more than 90%. NTRA president and chief executive officer Alex Waldrop said the NTRA gets about 50% of operating revenue from “industry initiatives.”

Other tracks that won’t renew for 2010 are Delaware Park and Philadelphia Park Casino & Racetrack, both of which have slot machines or video lottery terminals and will soon add table games. Hoosier Park, another slots track, is in bankruptcy and won’t renew for that reason.

“Tracks will take advantage of the benefits (of the NTRA) without paying for the cost,” Waldrop said in a recent interview with The Blood-Horse. “We want to expand our membership base but it’s a challenge. There are a lot of financial hardships out there.”

Delaware Park, whose president and chief operating officer, Bill Fasy, has stepped down from the NTRA board of directors, cited costs associated with implementation of table games as the reason for not renewing, NTRA officials said. However, the Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, which represents horsemen at the track, has renewed for two years.

CDI indicated it would reconsider its membership in the future, Chamblin said. The NTRA hasn’t received an answer on membership from tracks owned by MI Developments, which took them over from bankrupt Magna Entertainment Corp.

Waldrop said non-membership revenue will likely grow.

“We’re having a huge year with NTRA Advantage,” he said. “For whatever reason, we’ve seen a significant recovery in that area. I think (because of the economic conditions) people now appreciate and are looking for deals.”