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Churchill narrows quarterly loss; flood threat closes its Miss. casino

Coming off a record-setting Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs on Monday announced that revenue from its Harlow's Casino and from online betting boosted the company's first-quarter revenue.

Net revenue rose 54 percent, to $131.6 million from $85.2 million in the same quarter last year, according to figures released Monday.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization rose to $11.2 million, compared with a loss of $5 million the first quarter of 2010.

Earnings also included a full first quarter of revenue from Churchill's casino at Calder Race Course in Florida, which opened in late January 2010.

All that helped the company narrow its net loss from continuing operations to $3.2 million, or 19 cents a share, compared to a net loss of $8.1 million or 60 cents a share, in 2010, a 68 percent improvement.

The company traditionally posts a loss in the first quarter because only one of its four racetracks has live racing then.

"We are extremely pleased with the results of this year's Kentucky Derby weekend, during which we set a new record for on-track Derby Day attendance," said Bob Evans, Churchill Downs Inc.'s chairman-elect and chief executive. "We also saw increases over 2010 levels in on-track and all-sources wagering on both Derby and Oaks days, and grew revenues from sponsorships and admissions year over year."

Based on preliminary estimates, the company expects to see an additional $5 million to $6 million of Derby-related earnings, he said.

Evans said a meet-opening night event drew a crowd of 38,142, more than double typical turnout for an opening-day race card at Churchill Downs.

He said the company is using some cash to pay down long-term debt.

Evans also said Churchill is closely monitoring the water level at its Harlow's Casino on the Mississippi River after an emergency was declared May 3 by the river levee board for Washington County, Miss. The board directed Churchill on Friday night to close the casino until further notice, Evans said.

"At this time, we do not know when state officials will allow Harlow's to reopen or what the ultimate impact this temporary closure — or potential flooding — could have on the Harlow's operation or our business results," he said.

Evans and other Churchill officials will discuss the results at 9 a.m. Tuesday during a teleconference that will be available online at Churchilldownsincorporated.com.