Canterbury Park Will Stay the Course in 2012

Minnesota track will offer 62 racing days, push for expanded gambling.

Despite taking a financial hit because of a state-imposed shutdown during its live race meet this summer, Canterbury Park will stay the course with its regular schedule in 2012.

And, as has been the case in recent years, track officials will continue to lobby the state legislature for expanded gambling in an attempt to be competitive with neighboring casinos.

The Minnesota Racing Commission granted Canterbury 62 days of Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing from May 18-Sept. 3. Racing will be held on a Thursday-through-Sunday schedule.

“The 2012 race meet will closely resemble the meet we ran this year, minus the state government shutdown that caused Canterbury and the horse owners, trainers, and breeders to lose 20 days of business,” Canterbury president Randy Sampson said. “While the shutdown and loss of revenues had a negative impact on next season’s purses, it is necessary to offer sufficient racing opportunities so that Canterbury continues to attract enough horses to make the meet a success.”

After tacking on extra days in September to make up for the summer shutdown, Canterbury ended up racing 56 days this year with average daily purses of $103,121, according to The Jockey Club Information Systems. In 2010 the track raced 62 days for average daily purses of $105,852.

The Canterbury Park Holding Corp.’s most recent financial statement shows the impact of the government shutdown. Officials said that for the third quarter of 2011—July, August, and September—pari-mutuel revenue was down 16.9% from the same period in 2010, while card casino revenue dropped 7.7%.

For the first nine months of 2011, pari-mutuel revenue was down 9.5%, but card casino revenue was up 2.3%, officials said.

Sampson said the company estimates a loss of about $1 million for each of the three weeks the facility was closed because of a delay in approval of a state budget. He said a pre-tax loss of $300,000 for the third quarter of this year made for the worst third quarter since the card casino opened in 2000.

Sampson said the company spent “significant” funds on lobbying for slot machines in another failed attempt, but that Canterbury would continue its push in 2012.

“Studies have shown that a racino would generate much needed revenues for the state of Minnesota while creating a significant number of jobs in the racing, hospitality, and equine industries,” Sampson said. “A racino would also enable Minnesota’s horse racing industry, which already employs several thousand individuals, to remain competitive and viable.

“While we incurred substantial expense in lobbying for a racino this year without positive results in the legislature, we believe these efforts have increased support for a racino at Canterbury Park, both among the public and lawmakers. We will, therefore, continue to vigorously pursue adoption of racino legislation at the earliest possible time.”