Canterbury Regroups After Costly Shutdown

Canterbury Park has lost about $1 million a week in revenue during shutdown.

Canterbury Park officials are biting at the bit to reopen July 21 after a state-imposed shutdown that lasted 20 days, but they indicated revenue losses have been serious.

Randy Sampson, president of the Minnesota racetrack, said he believes the track lost about $1 million a week during the shutdown, which was triggered when Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican lawmakers couldn’t agree on a state budget. The budget was signed by Dayton July 20.

In addition, the Minnesota legislature again took a pass on legislation that would permit electronic gaming at Canterbury and the state’s other racetrack, Running Aces Harness Park. Both tracks have card clubs.

“We are relieved that this shutdown has come to an end,” Sampson said in a statement. “It has caused undue hardship to far too many. Suspending Canterbury’s operations was extremely painful to the 1,000 employees of Canterbury Park who were laid off without pay, to those employed on our backside, and to thousands otherwise involved in Minnesota’s horse industry.

“Since the shutdown occurred during the heart of racing season, we estimate that Canterbury Park lost as much as $1 million in revenue each week, but we won't know the final impact until the racing season is over.”

If the shutdown had lasted any longer, it’s possible many horsemen would have relocated and the remainder of the meet would have been scrapped. Entries drawn for July 21-23, however, indicate horsemen stuck around and are anxious to run their stock.

Canterbury, which competes with a tribal casino located just minutes away, has lobbied for electronic gaming in the form of what it calls “Racino legislation” for roughly a decade. During this year’s budget impasse it appeared the legislation might be revisited.

“It is very disappointing that our proposed Racino legislation was not part of resolving the budget impasse,” Sampson said. “Studies have shown that two racinos would generate an estimated $125 million annually in revenue for the State of Minnesota, while creating thousands of jobs in the racing, hospitality, and equine industries.

“Racinos would also enable Minnesota’s horse racing industry, which already employs several thousand individuals, to remain competitive and viable. We believe our efforts this year have increased support for Racinos in Minnesota, both among the public and among lawmakers in St. Paul, and we remain committed to the adoption of Racino legislation in Minnesota at the earliest possible time.”