03/04/2009 1:00AM

Small rise for 2008 revenue


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Churchill Downs Inc. on Wednesday reported a 5 percent increase in net revenue from continuing operations for 2008 while also reporting a 3 percent decrease in net revenue for the fourth quarter of the year.

CDI, which owns and operates four major U.S. tracks - Calder in Miami, Fair Grounds in New Orleans, Arlington Park in Chicago, and its flagship track in Louisville - reported annual revenue of $430.6 million in 2008 versus $410.7 million in 2007. The company attributed the increase partly to its online and gaming businesses, which operated at higher capacities in 2008. Its online business was still a startup in 2007.

The company attributed substantial decreases in revenue from its racing operations to disputes with horsemen in Florida and Kentucky regarding the dissemination of simulcast signals from Calder and through the company's online wagering business, Twinspires.com. Revenues from Arlington, Calder, and Fair Grounds were down; revenue from Churchill Downs was flat.

Net earnings were boosted by an insurance payment of $17.2 million related to damages at Fair Grounds from Hurricane Katrina.

In a statement, CDI president Robert L. Evans pointed to the company's new strategy to integrate its racing, gaming, entertainment, and online businesses. "Despite a challenging economy in 2008, we continued to grow revenues and manage our cost structure proactively, which led to strong full-year results for the company," Evans said.

For the fourth quarter of 2008, net revenues were $85.9 million, down from $89.1 million during the same time frame in 2007.

Prior to the financial disclosures, Churchill stock closed Wednesday afternoon on the Nasdaq exchange at $26.92, up 99 cents.

The track scheduled a Thursday morning media briefing to more fully explain the results.