New Law Should Help Revenue at Canterbury

Canterbury Park didn’t get slot machines, but it did win changes expected to generate more revenue from its card club to support purses.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed legislation May 4 that amends laws governing the track’s card club. The measure also could create a partnership between Canterbury and the state’s tribal casinos, which have exclusive rights to slots in Minnesota.

Canterbury officials said the law increases the number of tables in the card room from 50 to 80 and allows the track to offer card games in which players bet against the house. It also creates a framework for the possible implementation of full-card simulcasts at tribal casinos.

Currently, only Canterbury Park and Running Aces Harness Park offer pari-mutuel wagering in Minnesota.

“While this legislation will not solve the revenue problems the industry faces, it is an important step in the right direction for Minnesota horse racing,” Canterbury president Randy Sampson said. “We are grateful the legislature and governor recognized the current, fragile state of horse breeding and horse racing in Minnesota, and provided new tools we can use to strengthen our business and enhance purses.”

Though Canterbury and Running Aces have pushed for slots for years, Sampson said: “We appreciate the support of the tribal gaming industry in Minnesota and look forward to the possibility of working in cooperation with the tribes to provide statewide exposure to horse racing wagering.”

Sampson said it’s too soon to predict the impact the card room changes will have on purses. But Jeff Hilger, president of the Equine Development Coalition of Minnesota, said the law will “help stop the decline of the breeding industry in Minnesota and send a clear sign to Minnesota owners and trainers that the state is serious about protecting the future of the equine industry.”

Simulcasts at tribal casinos hinge on the tribes’ interest in pari-mutuel wagering as well as the necessary regulatory approval process.

Sampson also noted Canterbury is working with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community on "joint marketing and purse enhancements." The tribe operates the Mystic Lake Casino and Hotel located a few miles from Canterbury and has steadfastly opposed any expansion of gambling in Minnesota.

“While we do not have a definitive agreement, we are encouraged that the tribe’s elected leadership has expressed a willingness to consider working with us to provide a badly needed shot in the arm to Minnesota’s horse industry,” Sampson said.

Canterbury, owned by the publicly traded Canterbury Park Holding Corp., will hold its 2012 live meet from May 18-Sept. 3. The card club is open 24 hours a day, and full-card simulcasts are offered year-round.

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