Profits rise again at Ascot as course prepares for royal meeting
Ascot enjoyed another year of financial progress in 2017 according to the course's latest set of results, with profits increasing for a fifth successive year.
Profits before tax rose to £6.2 million from £5.1m, boosted by a successful Royal Ascot with the meeting's ticket income up by seven per cent.
Turnover rose by 6.7 per cent to £85.4m while £10.95m of the course's bank loan was repaid during the year – £4.3m more than the mandatory payment – reducing net debt to £59.8m by the end of 2017 and maintaining progress towards becoming in effect debt free by 2023.
Chief executive Guy Henderson said: "What we are aiming to do overall is to deliver consistent and sustainable progress across the board.
"For me the highlight is not to have a spike anywhere but advance each year a little bit better on every front. I see it as being down to the hard work and dedication of everybody who works at Ascot."
Henderson said the course was investing in debt management, infrastructure and horsemen.
"It is really important to point the ship in the right direction so that in ten, 20, 30 or 40 years' time the business is not going to be under financial pressure," he added.
The government's decision to reduce FOBT stakes to £2 has led to predictions of an overall reduction in racing's income of between £40m to £60m from lost media rights and levy, and Ascot is waiting to see what measures the government will take to mitigate that damage.
"Like everyone else we are waiting to see the detail of the mitigation measures that the government has alluded to and we won't be making any commitments or predictions regarding prize-money going forward at this stage," Henderson said.
Ascot has extended the Royal Enclosure gardens and increased capacity in the Village Enclosure to make the experience more comfortable for racegoers.
"What we are really trying to do here is make Royal Ascot better for those who come, rather than try and cram more people on to the site, and in 2018 our racegoers will hopefully experience the measures we have taken to reduce density across the site," Henderson said.
"We believe the infrastructure of getting to the racecourse can't cope with any more people and so our focus is on making it better for those who come, both in terms of quality and of density."
Ascot's Victoria Cup card was marred by violence among racegoers and Henderson said the course was taking the issue "very seriously".
He added: "It was great to see the Epsom Derby take place without any major incidents, as far as I am aware.
"The measures that were in place there were extensive and similar will be in place at Royal Ascot alongside the equally important measures in relation to terrorism whose threat level remains the same as last year."
After the royal meeting Ascot's focus will switch to the launch of its in-house pool betting operation Bet With Ascot in July, which is being introduced in partnership with Totepool.
"We all know that the key to pool betting is maximising liquidity and so we will continue to work with betting operators across the globe to achieve it," Henderson said.
However, Henderson said there was no news yet on the three sets of media and betting rights, including pay TV, which are up for renewal in March.
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