Churchill Downs and The Kentucky Derby Administration Fees: Predictable Capitalism or a Rip Off?

This week’s LET IT RIDE.COM HOT TOPIC comes from Richard Eng of Las Vegas Review-Journal…take a read and VOICE AN OPINION!

High prices shouldn’t detract from Derby experience

In the good news-bad news department of horse racing, Churchill Downs is making 20,000 seats available to the public for next year’s Kentucky Derby. The bad news is there is a $100 administrative fee, half of which will be refunded if you get shut out.

For those complaining about the surcharge, they have closed their eyes to the basic capitalism principle that is supply and demand. A finite number of tickets are available, and the thirst for Derby seats seemingly is unquenchable.

In economic theory, the fee is no different than NFL teams forcing season-ticket holders to also buy tickets to meaningless preseason games. Or to get the best seats for your alma mater in football and basketball, it helps to make a donation to the athletic department. They do it because they can.

Churchill bean counters had seen ticket brokers making ungodly profits on Derby ducats for decades. They wanted to rein that in, in the name of protecting the customer. In reality, those profits needed to be going to the Churchill bottom line.

I have no doubts the new system will be safer and more efficient. Buying fake or nonexistent tickets for a major sporting event from unscrupulous vendors can be a problem. However, obtaining seats is just the start of a costly journey to Louisville for the first Saturday in May.

Your room at a lower-tier motel, which usually costs $39 a night in summer, will be a couple of hundred dollars a night. Renting a car? Most likely you’ll have to fly into Cincinnati, rent a car there and drive the 90 miles to Louisville. Dinner? The $14.99 rib-eye in October will be $39.99 in May, provided you even can get a restaurant reservation.

It is capitalism in all its glory.

This is not knocking the Kentucky Derby or Louisville. I have attended 15 Derbies and would give my eye teeth to see another in person. For folks my age, or close to it, the Derby needs to be on your bucket list. It is one of the greatest sporting events in the world.

If price, in this case a $50 fee, is a deal-breaker, then you are better off watching at home on NBC. In Louisville, $100 bills will be flying out of your wallet. But I guarantee you will have a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Plus, here’s an advantage that no other sport other than horse racing can offer: If you get lucky betting on Oaks and/or Derby day, you can win enough to pay for the trip.


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