08/05/2008 11:00PM

Calder slots due in '09


Churchill Downs Inc. expects to open a casino at Calder Race Course in Florida in the second quarter of 2009, officials of the company said on a conference call Wednesday morning to discuss second-quarter earnings.

Churchill officials did not offer any other details about the planned casino, including the amount of money that Churchill expects to invest in the casino. Slot machines were legalized at Calder though a public referendum earlier this year, but Churchill is still in negotiations with an organization representing Florida breeders on subsidies from the slot-machine revenues.

During the conference call, Robert Evans, Churchill's chief executive, cited disappointing slot-machine numbers at neighboring Gulfstream Park for the company's reluctance to divulge plans for the facility at Calder.

"The wrong facility built on top of the wrong economic business model doesn't return favorable financial results for anyone," Evans said. "We have to make sure we get the underlying business model right."

The lack of an agreement with Florida horsemen on slot-machine subsidies from the planned casino had a significant impact on racing at the ongoing Calder meet. While Churchill negotiated with horsemen on the agreement, the horsemen refused to give Calder permission to send its signal out-of-state. The horsemen ultimately approved the export of the signal after the two sides reached an agreement in July.

Churchill officials said during the conference call that the inability to export the signal had a $3 million negative impact on Calder's operations during the second quarter, when Churchill posted net income of $29.4 million, even with net income of $29.3 million during the second quarter last year.