Churchill Downs Has Strong Second Quarter After Kentucky Derby

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Churchill Downs, parent company of TwinSpires, had a strong second quarter in 2022, with the company bringing in the highest net revenue and highest adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) in the history of the company.

Net revenue in Q2 was $582.5 million, which was up 13% from the prior year. Similarly, adjusted EBITDA was $291.2 million, which was up 21% from the prior year and 25% from the previous quarter. 

The company attributes this strong second quarter success to the Kentucky Derby resuming in full force, the exit from online sports betting, and the increased focus on retail. Leadership also is looking forward to expanding the TwinSpires online horse racing bets in business-to-business partnerships with other online sports betting operators. 

Stock Price Still Falls Short

Churchill Downs stock (CHDN) struggled to reflect the incredible quarter due to market volatility around recession fears. With the second quarter GDP report being released the same morning as the company’s earnings call, CHDN followed the day’s market movement. However, the stock is up around $31 per share when compared to the same day last year, and the company’s diluted earnings per share (EPS) is up over 200% compared to the previous year’s second quarter. 

When asked about the possible recession on the earnings call, CEO William Carstanjan said, “There’s a lot of discussion in the market about margins and the economy, but it’s all being managed [on our side] now. Having been around in C-Suite jobs since the 2009 recession, it’s manageable and not overly remarkable at this point. We will manage site-by-site across regions to determine what’s best.” 

Kentucky Derby Key to Improved Finances

The Derby resumed in full-force this year for the first time since Covid. The event had the traditional Kentucky Derby Festival, a two-week event that leads up to race day, sold nearly 150,000 seats to fans, and had one of the most unexpected race outcomes

Rich Strike won an unexpected victory at the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby at 80-1 odds. With the increased attention and attendance, the wagering at the event was the highest all-time on the race, program, and weeklong series of races. The wagering across all events and sources totaled $273.8 million, a 17% increase from 2021 and up from the previous record in 2019 of $250.9 million. 

The virtual viewership also broke records. Churchill Downs’ partner, NBC reported that there were 16 million average viewers, with 19 million viewers at the peak. This proved to be the most-watched race since 2016, and the most-watched program on NBC since this year’s Super Bowl. 

To support the future of The Kentucky Derby, the company is continuing its investment into the Homestretch Club. The final renovations are expected to be completed in time for the 2023 race and under budget by $7 million. The renovations will provide a variety of seating and ticketing options, as well as race day experiences.

Second quarter plans for Online and Retail Betting

In the year-end earnings call, Churchill Downs announced an exit from the online sports betting space in order to better focus on retail and TwinSpires’ horse betting capabilities. The company has managed to break-even in the online sports and casino market as they exited the space. 

The long-term plans for online horse betting are to work with other online sportsbook operators to incorporate horse betting options. The company expects that the partnerships will not cannibalize the TwinSpires horse betting market because the space is “driven by committed players who seek the tools, content, and depth of the product.” The goal of the partnerships is to bring horse betting to more casual players.

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In the past, the company hasn’t had access to more casual players. During the earnings call, they explained that “it typically requires recruiting customers who are already familiar with horse racing or taking the opportunity to promote the betting around physical events.”

TwinSpires leadership is optimistic that by partnering with other operators, bets on horse races will be available like any other sport. The company will do this by making a white-glove service for partners, that will allow different levels of content and access to races. 

The team also discussed the February 20022 purchase of a variety of new retail locations through the Peninsula Pacific Entertainment LLC (P2E) acquisition. The P2E acquisition allows the company to add retail locations in Virginia, Iowa, and New York state. As of the day’s earnings call, the financing had been secured, as well as approval from the state of Virginia. The Iowa properties will be on the agenda for review in August, and the necessary items for approval have been submitted in New York.

About the Author
Stephanie Wood

Stephanie Wood

Writer and Contributor
Stephanie is a New York-based writer. Following her graduation from the University of Colorado with a degree in Business Administration, she worked at The Wall Street Journal. She also holds her MFA in Creative Writing from Arcadia University. She has written for Augusta Free Press, Toronto Sports Media, CU Independent, and several other publications. When she's not writing, you can find her rooting for the Colorado Avalanche, taking care of her plants, and fostering dogs.

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