The top of a yr is a time for wanting ahead and looking out again. Randy Sampson did a few of each final week, as Canterbury Park marked the expiration of its landmark settlement with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Group.
The deal, which added about $70 million to Canterbury’s purses over the previous 11 years, ended final Saturday. Sampson, CEO of the Shakopee racetrack, spent a bit of time reminiscing about the advantages the partnership introduced. However with Canterbury now free to pursue different sources of purse funds — maybe sports activities wagering or different extra gaming — he rapidly turned his imaginative and prescient towards the longer term.
The top of the deal did not come as a shock. Talks between Canterbury and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Group (SMSC) had gone on for years, and the 2 sides had been by no means capable of attain a compromise.
With their official partnership now historical past, Canterbury will search new methods to complement its racing purses, resuming legislative efforts that had been discontinued when the SMSC deal was struck in 2012.
“We’re simply beginning to formulate a plan,” Sampson mentioned. “We have not been lively on the legislature for the previous 10 years due to the settlement. Our purpose proper now could be to speak to legislators concerning the significance of horse racing to Minnesota, not essentially with any particular laws or agenda, however to construct higher consciousness about our business.
“There may be uncertainty and challenges shifting ahead. However there’s pleasure amongst our group as to what’s subsequent.”
The cash from the SMSC settlement helped push Canterbury’s purses from $6.4 million in 2011 to $15.7 million final yr, stabilizing the state’s racing and breeding business. About half the purses paid throughout final summer season’s 64-day season got here from SMSC funds. As purses rose, so did wagering on Canterbury’s races, which reached a Canterbury Park-record $97.6 million final yr.
With much less purse cash out there for this summer season’s meet, Canterbury will trim its season to 54 days. It can pay purses of about $200,000 per day, a small discount from final yr.
“We’re pleased with the help that we supplied Canterbury Park and the horse business in Minnesota,” SMSC mentioned in an announcement. “Our relationship has been considered one of mutual respect and help, and we want them the perfect.”
Earlier than the SMSC settlement, Canterbury had an everyday presence on the State Capitol, lobbying unsuccessfully for years for permission to permit slot machines on the observe. The SMSC deal idled that effort for a decade, requiring Canterbury to finish its pursuit of any extra gaming in change for $84 million in purse dietary supplements and advertising and marketing funds.
The observe now could be assembling a brand new lobbying crew to advertise its pursuits earlier than the legislature. The Minnesota Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protecting Affiliation, which represents the observe’s horse homeowners and trainers, additionally shall be concerned. Govt director Mike Cronin mentioned the group was proactive final summer season, working to teach lawmakers concerning the state’s racing business.
“We’re already lining up conferences with legislators,” Cronin mentioned. “We had a very good response final yr for a few of our benevolence packages, the place either side of the aisle had been actually supportive. We’re within the recreation, attending to know extra folks and telling our story.”
Sampson and Cronin each mentioned they’re open-minded on methods to complement Canterbury’s purses. There was a lot hypothesis about sports activities wagering, which is for certain to be mentioned in the course of the present legislative session.
It is unclear whether or not Canterbury and Operating Aces, the harness observe in Columbus, can be included in any payments. Final yr, the state Senate sought to incorporate them in sports activities wagering laws, however the Minnesota Indian Gaming Affiliation opposed it. Sampson additionally famous that sports activities wagering is not more likely to generate important income for the tracks.
“The revenue margins are slim,” he mentioned. “There is not big cash on this for the operators or the state.”
Sampson is not anticipating an answer to be discovered instantly, however he and different observe officers are upbeat. Canterbury has begun a $15 million improve of its steady space, and he mentioned the event of its land — together with a 19,000-seat amphitheater set to open in 2024 —continues to revolve round dwell racing.
“We had an incredible 10 years with the [SMSC] partnership,” he mentioned. “However I am optimistic about what’s forward.”