Budget Impasse Threatens Canterbury Park Meet

Canterbury Park's 2011 meet is being threatened by a state budget impasse.

A budget impasse in Minnesota could force Canterbury Park to suspend operations July 1 should there be a government shutdown, track officials said.

In advance of the deadline some horses could leave the grounds, a situation that could impact the 62-day meet that began May 20 and continues through Sept. 5. Canterbury also has a card club.

The Minnesota Racing Commission, a state agency, regulates pari-mutuel and gaming operations at Canterbury.

“We are working with the MRC to evaluate various options that might allow the company to keep all or part of its gaming operations open even if the budget impasse continues into July,” Canterbury president Randy Sampson said in a statement released June 17. “However, at this time, we can provide no assurance that we will be able to avoid a complete suspension of operations on July 1.”

Sampson said a shutdown would cost publicly traded Canterbury Park Holding Co., which owns the Shakopee racetrack, more than $1 million a week in gaming and concessions revenue. Layoff of about 1,000 full- and part-time workers would be possible.

“Unless there is a quick end to the budget impasse, another concern is that owners and trainers will likely start moving their horses from Canterbury to other racetracks within a week or two of July 1, and once they leave it is unlikely they will return,” Sampson said. “Clearly, if the budget impasse continues beyond early- to mid-July, the impact could be devastating for Canterbury and the horse industry. We could lose the entire remainder of the racing season.”

Canterbury relies heavily on horses stabled on the grounds because its location restricts regular shipping from other tracks, the closest of which are located in Iowa and Illinois.

Sampson said even if racing commission operations are suspended, the track should be permitted to continue to operate because it “pays all of the costs incurred to regulate” its operations. In 2010 regulation cost the track about $1 million, he said.

The budget impasse stems from a battle between Gov. Mark Dayton and the state legislature. Some racing industry participants are hopeful the battle and need for revenue resurrects legislation to permit gaming machines at Canterbury, which competes with full-scale tribal casinos for customers.