Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Churchill Being Churchill

The casino operator that, on the side, also happens to run thoroughbred racetracks and hosts the industry's most coveted stakes race, and whose stock has more than tripled in value since late 2011, apparently has nothing better to do than foster ill will during Kentucky Derby week.

Churchill Downs, fresh off record-high quarterly revenue and reversal to a $2.8 million profit, and about to unveil to customers on Derby weekend $18 million of renovations to its private suites, has prevented my ADW (TVG/4NJBets) from carrying the Churchill feed thus far this week.

In trying to watch replays on Tuesday night of that afternoon's card to observe potential track bias ahead of Saturday's Run for the Roses, I noticed race replays were unavailable on 4NJBets.

Apparently, the live feed from Churchill, as well as 4NJBets' use of the TVG2 live stream, also were blocked on Tuesday (and appear to be on Wednesday).

Upon contacting 4NJBets customer service, I received a vague "Churchill Downs has suspended our permission to live stream or provide race replays."

...or the Horseplayers
Strictly a guess, since Churchill's corporate news page is devoid of an announcement and I could not find media confirmation elsewhere, but it appears that racing fans, yet again with Churchill Downs, may be at the short end of a simulcast feed dispute.

Recall that, last summer, New York's OTBs dropped the Churchill simulcast feeds (covering other CDI-owned properties such as Arlington Park).  The Mid-Atlantic Cooperative has been at the center of similar disputes.  A few years back, I encouraged (successfully) Monmouth Park to ditch Churchill Downs from one of its spring handicapping contests as a result of a simulcast feud, arguing that MP should not support money going into Churchill's parimutuel pool.

Churchill Downs in its latest 10-Q filing with the SEC did not break out first-quarter revenue or profitability derived from its simulcast signal; and although I recognize the inherent leverage of that feed as a revenue source, it is increasingly obnoxious to cut off the signal to handicappers, especially during the week of its single biggest event.  (The company's 2015 annual report -- in a year where revenue surged 49% to $1.21 billion and net income approached $4 per share -- merely lists "simulcast and ADW receivables" of $14.8 million on its financial statements.) 

The assumption, then, is that simulcast revenue is chicken feed and a loss leader in the big picture.

Blocking the simulcast and replay feed to ADW customers is just another example of why, for the second straight year, I will exclusively wager on Saturday's Derby and no other race at Churchill Downs properties the other 364 days of the year.

The company can afford grandiose expansion of its flagship track for high-end Derby clientele and, most recently, $25 million expansion of a casino in Maine, but otherwise seems to care less about daily simulcast users, similar to its treatment of a Hall of Fame star at the 2014 Derby.


  1. CDI knows this is the one time of year they have leverage and they use it. Horseplayers be damned.

  2. I think the bigger problem in all this, us NJ bettors get forced to stay on one specific privately run ADW. Thats anti-competitive. We should be allowed to join TwinSpires, DRFBets, Xpressbet, whatever we choose like any other state.

    1. Agreed totally, but we'll have to wait for a legislature and horsemen that actually understand the issue. Then again, if live racing goes away, you may get to pick your ADW.