08/07/2007 11:00PM

Churchill to stop releasing handle figures


Churchill Downs Inc. will no longer release handle and attendance figures at the end of the meets of its four racetracks, the chief executive of the company, Bob Evans, said during a conference call on Wednesday morning.

Evans said the new policy was put in place because Churchill officials believe that handle and attendance figures are no longer "key metrics" and do not properly reflect the performance of the company's operating units.

Almost all racetracks issue handle and attendance figures at the end of a meet , which are compared to the same figures from the meet held the previous year. Handle numbers are used by reporters and financial analysts to gauge the demand for a racetrack's racing signal. Wagering provides the majority of most racetracks' revenues, and is many times the only source of purses for horsemen.

Julie Koenig Loignon, the vice president of communications for Churchill, said following the conference call that Churchill had become concerned that some reporters and financial analysts were giving too much weight to the handle figures to determine the profitability of Churchill's racetracks, and were therefore misinterpreting the health of the company's operating units.

"For example, at the end of the last Churchill meet, offtrack wagering was down, and that received a lot of play, but if you look at the full performance of the operating units, we actually performed better than last year," Koenig Loignon said.

Rather than release the figures, Churchill will discuss the financial performance of each of its racetracks on each of its quarterly conference calls with analysts.

Koenig Loignon said that Churchill is still considering whether to provide the figures on request, but said that the figures would also be available through other sources like state racing commissions and Equibase, a company owned by racetracks and the Jockey Club that collects racing data.

John Cooney, communications supervisor for the Jockey Club, said on Wednesday that Equibase is prohibited from releasing handle figures for individual racetracks as part of its agreement with the tracks.

Handle figures are published at the end of each racing day by Equibase on the racetrack's charts, but those handle figures are sometimes inaccurate because they do not include separate-pool wagering. The figures are also many times revised post-publication because of the omission of pools that are manually merged into the commingled pool because of communications errors.