Thursday, July 02, 2009

Is Ellis Park really closing? The Ron Geary Shuffle

We are now taking bets that Ellis Park, which, along with the rest of the racing industry, tried to shake down the legislature for a bailout through the slots at tracks legislation during the special session that just ended last week, will not close this year. The odds of staying open could increase as we read more stories like this one:

Ellis Park owner Ron Geary left open the possibility Wednesday that the western Kentucky track could remain open for racing in 2010, although he called it a "longshot."

Ummhmm. First it was that the track was definitely closing if we didn't vote for slots, and now it's a "longshot." Watch Geary slowly creep from "longshot" to "maybe" to "let me consult my horoscope" to "probably will" to actually filing the application for horse racing dates in 2010. I say 2-to-1 he does it. And after all those threats he made to the General Assembly last week that he was definitely shutting down. Mmmm mmm. An industry lobbyist told me that on September 7th, they were closing their doors.

Going into 2010 having not seen what we were told would undoubtedly happen if slots didn't pass isn't going to look real good for the slots lobby.

Geary is also claiming he has lost money:

Under the current framework relying on pari-mutuel betting, Geary said he has lost money every year since buying Ellis from Churchill Downs Inc. in 2006. He lost $2.7 million in 2007 but said he doesn't want disclose other financial specifics.

Lost money in 2007? How did that happen when concession sales were up 26 percent, wagering was up 5 percent, and total revenue for the track was up 14 percent in 2007 according to the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority's 2006/2007 Biennial Report? (see p. 88) When revenues increase at that rate, that usually means the company makes more money, not less--unless something else is wrong.

Doesn't want to "disclose other financial specifics"? I wonder why. The next time the tracks come begging to the legislature, they should be required to open their books so we can see how the tracks manage to increase their revenues and pay the executives exorbitant compensation and somehow come out poor and in need of a bailout.

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