Mystic-Canterbury joint agreement takes racino off the table

Mystic Lake Casino, an enterprise of the Shakopee Mdewkanton Sioux Community (SMSC), has entered into a long-term joint marketing agreement with Canterbury Park that takes racinos off the table for ten years, fostering growth at both properties and preserving rural jobs in gaming and the horse industry.

The agreement was described by Canterbury Park President and CEO Randy Sampson as “a milestone that will mark the rebound of Minnesota horse racing and our local equine industry.” Under its terms, Mystic Lake will contribute $75 million over ten years to enhance purses at the track, and another $8.5 million over that period to fund joint marketing efforts. In exchange, Canterbury Park will no longer pursue legislation authorizing racinos in Minnesota, and will join forces with SMSC to defeat other proposals for gambling expansion that could hurt both businesses. Other joint promotional efforts will be developed as well.

SMSC Chairman Stanley Crooks said the agreement offers advantages to both parties. In addition to preserving rural jobs for Minnesota, he said, “it lets us focus on the broader interests that we share.”

Mystic Lake CEO Ed Stevenson explained that the partnership would enhance the branding of the southwest metro area as “the premier entertainment and gaming destination in Minnesota and the midwest, while providing significant financial support to horse racing at Canterbury Park and much-needed stimulus to the Minnesota equine industry.”

The deal was initiated by Canterbury officials at the suggestion of Minnesota House of Representatives Speaker Kurt Zellers, who urged Sampson to contact SMSC and explore possible joint efforts.

Minnesota tribes have been fighting the racino proposals for nearly fifteen years, fearing that legalizing slot machines at race tracks would open the door to slots in bars, restaurants, shopping malls and other venues statewide. The deal between Mystic Lake and Shakopee probably takes those other options off the table for the foreseeable future, according to Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, who authored the racino bill in the 2012 session.

In a June 5 MinnPost story, Senjem said, “My sense is that discussion of a larger-scale gaming effort in Minnesota, at least at this point without racino, is probably over for a while. I don’t sense any other cause that would bring it to the floor that can’t and shouldn’t otherwise be addressed through … building a strong and robust Minnesota economy.”

John McCarthy, executive director of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA), agreed. “Many people who wouldn’t otherwise have supported gambling expansion felt obligated to support the racino because Minnesota’s horse industry was in pretty bad shape and needed the boost. Now that racino is off the table, I can’t think of another expansion scheme that has anywhere near enough public or legislative support to pass, at least in the near future.”

For a sampling of media coverage of the story, follow these links:

MinnPost, June 5, James Nord

Star Tribune, June 6, Rachel Blount

Pioneer Press, June 4, Steve Karnowski

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Andy Platto