Canterbury Drops Racino Push After $75M Deal with Tribe

The operator of Canterbury Park has agreed to drop its push for a combination racetrack and casino after striking a deal through which the owners of Mystic Lake casino would pay the racetrack tens of millions of dollars.

In a move that could effectively halt the recent legislative push for so-called “racinos,” a Native American tribe has agreed to pay roughly $75 million over the course of a decade to Canterbury Park Holding Corporation, which owns and operates the Canterbury Park racetrack in Shakopee.

Canterbury Park said Monday that it has struck a deal with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, which operates Mystic Lake Casino in nearby Prior Lake. The tribe has agreed to make annual payments to Canterbury Park that will total roughly $75 million over the course of the 10-year agreement.

In exchange, Canterbury Park Holding Corporation has agreed to drop efforts to pass racino legislation, which would allow for combined racetracks and casinos, for the duration of the 10-year agreement, according to spokesman Jeff Maday.

Maday said that the purpose of the racino legislation was to make horse racing viable in Minnesota, and the new agreement accomplishes that goal. “With this agreement, we’ll nearly double our purses,” which will allow Canterbury to better compete with other racetracks throughout the country, he said. Purses refer to the pools of money awarded to race winners.

Canterbury also said that under the agreement, it will engage in joint marketing efforts with Mystic Lake.

The deal must be approved by the Minnesota Racing Commission, which is expected to take it under consideration later this month, Canterbury said.

“This is a great day for Minnesota horse racing and for our two organizations,” Canterbury CEO and President Randy Sampson said in a statement. “We view this agreement as the milestone that will mark the rebound of Minnesota horse racing and our local equine industry.”

Canterbury and Sampson had said in past months that the company would advocate for racino legislation, contending that it would stimulate economic growth in horse racing and related agri-businesses in Minnesota, provide growth and development opportunities that would add jobs at the park and in the surrounding community, and provide new revenues for state and local governments.

The tribes behind Minnesota’s Native American casinos have aggressively fought against the proposal, spending more than $6 million on political donations over the past decade, according to the Star Tribune.

According to a report by the Pioneer Press, the Canterbury deal doesn't prevent Running Aces, another Minnesota racetrack, from pushing for racino Legislation again, but it likely doesn't help its chances. Canterbury will actively oppose a racino at that smaller track.