City punters fuel a profit rise at Arena

CITY workers and corporate sponsorship deals have helped to fuel a 30 per cent rise in profit at racecourse operator Arena Leisure.

The company has seen a tide of punters returning to its courses, including Windsor and Lingfield Park.

Monday night horseracing at Windsor was a fixture of the City social life before the recession and is becoming popular again as the economy recovers.

Arena’s profit for the six months to June was up a quarter to £2m, while corporate hospitality was up 13 per cent.

Chairman David Thorpe said: “It could be some time before we see the bankers coming back in full force, and it won’t look the same as it did in those heady days. But at the moment it is very encouraging. The business community is going racing again.”

Arena said Windsor is pulling in between 6,000 and 7,000 people on Monday nights.

The company is also anticipating new revenue opportunities from royalties for racing televised abroad.

Finance director Tony Harris said: “There is a lot of interest in racing in Britain and the market has a lot of potential. Turkey and Italy are among the places where demand is high.”

Revenues slipped slightly to £30.1m, due to a fall in the levy paid by the betting industry.

Average attendance was up three per cent to 1,498 across Arena’s courses which also include Doncaster, Wolverhampton, Worcester and Folkestone.

Arena’s debts stand at £47.7m, but City analysts forecast that this will fall to £30m by the end of this year.

The group said it expected to stage 353 fixtures across this year – accounting for about a quarter of all racing in the UK.

Harris said: “We are very pleased with the results and are confident about the future.”

He added: “The screening of races overseas shows that there is a genuine interest in racing in this country and Ireland and that should serve us well.”