Churchil Downs stops selling infield tickets, lost millions in second quarter, investors told

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WTVQ) — Just how big an impact the coronavirus outbreak is having on the sports world is in the spotlight Thursday as Churchill Downs reported a $162.9 million decline in net revenue.

At the same time, Churchill Downs announced it is suspending the sale of infield tickets for this year’s Derby as part of an effort to limit the crowd size during the coronavirus outbreak.

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“We’re still well under the capacity that we’ve discussed with (Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear),” CEO Bill Carstanjen said during a investors conference call Thursday morning, according to the Courier-Journal. “But we’ve stopped (selling general admission tickets) anyway because we want to make sure first and foremost that when our customers come to the event, that they feel safe.”

According to the newspaper, Carstanjen said the crowd at Churchill Downs on Sept. 5 will be “well under capacity,” and that he hasn’t decided if and when the racetrack will restart general admission ticket sales. Carstanjen did not say how many infield tickets have been sold so far.

During his daily briefing Thursday, Gov. Andy Beshear discussed whether if the Derby were this weekend, would he attend and present the trophies.

“I think everyone wants to see our umbers better. By then I hope we have stopped the escalation and are seeing a decline,” Beshear said. “If we are in an escalation, I would have to think long and hard about going and presenting the trophies. But if in September the numbers are where they are right now, I probably would go and present that trophy.”

In the conference call, the company blamed much of its financial losses on having to reschedule the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks, which generate about 20 percent — $180 million — of its annual revenues from May to September, according to a report in the Louisville Courier-Journal.

The numbers were discussed by Churchill Downs Inc. chief executive Bill Carstanjen during a quarterly conference call with investors Thursday morning.

According to the newspaper, Carstanjen said net revenue at Churchill Downs racetrack operations declined $162.9 million overall when compared with last year’s second quarter. That includes a $13.5 million loss from closing Derby City Gaming, its Louisville racing machine.

Earlier this week, analysts predicted the horse-racing conglomerate would report a loss of 55 cents per share on revenue of $119.95 million, compared with more than $477 million for the same period a year ago, the newspaper reported.