As budget talks continue and the state nears a possible government shutdown, Canterbury Park in Shakopee has decided to move up two races that were scheduled for this weekend to ensure that they are completed before the shutdown would occur.
The two races, which were originally scheduled for July 2 and July 4, will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday.
The park's operations are regulated by the Minnesota Racing Commission (MRC), a state agency that recently received layoff notices from the government and is on Governor Mark Dayton's list of agencies that are expected to close under a shutdown. If the MRC is not operational, Canterbury can't keep its doors open and it could mean millions in lost revenue.
Canterbury's CEO Randy Sampson said in a statement that the decision to move the races up "is the best option for the trainers, jockeys, and horses involved."
A government shutdown would cost the park more than $1 million each week and force it to furlough its 1,000-plus employees, according Sampson.
Sampson told Twin Cities Business earlier this month that the shutdown would be "particularity problematic" for the park over the Fourth of July weekend, which is typically the busiest weekend of the year.
Sampson added that the MRC is fully funded by horseman licensing fees and does not impact the state's general fund.
"It would be very unfair since the state general fund does not have to pay anything to support the racing commission," Sampson said. "So it makes no sense that a government shutdown should affect us."
Dayton and the Republican-controlled Legislature have reached a deadlock over a projected $5 billion state budget deficit for the two-year period that begins July 1. The Legislature adjourned last month before a budget deal was reached. If Dayton and legislators can't agree on a budget by June 30, the last day of the state's current two-year budgeting period, a shutdown would occur.
Should the budget standoff continue well into July, Sampson said that the company will petition the court to classify the MRC as a "critical service provider" so that Canterbury can continue operating as usual.
Canterbury Park Holding Corporation, which owns Canterbury Park, is among the state's 90-largest public companies based on revenue, which totaled $39.92 million in 2010.