Purses at Canterbury Park could rise by $2.5 million under an historic agreement with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Dakota Community that would allow simulcasting at Mystic Lake Casino and an expansion of poker playing at the horsetrack.
The two reached agreement on a new legislative proposal at the same Canterbury dropped this session's push for slot machines, which could have funded a Vikings stadium. However, these talks don't preclude Canterbury from trying for a racino again next year, according to Racinio Now spokesman Ron Rosenbaum.
Following discussions with the tribe last week, Canterbury is offering legislation that would increase the number of poker tables from 50 to 80 and raise the maximum bet on poker to $100. The number of poker tournaments and tables at those tournaments would be unlimited.
"Perhaps most importantly, and historic, is an arrangement where there would be simulcast horse racing at Indian casinos and then a revenue split between the track, the tribes and the horse industry," Rosenbaum said.
Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan, who carried the amendment, said the latest estimate shows purses at Canterbury rising from $5.5 million to almost $8 million.
"However, that was without the cap on poker game bets, so it could be a little less now," she explained.
The racino plan was removed from the Vikings bill by the Senate Tax committee on Friday night. On Saturday night, the Senate passed an amendment that will change the rules under which Minnesota's card clubs operate and allow Minnesota's two racetracks to reach agreements with Minnesota casinos to simulcast horse racing.
Any tribe or track could sign on.
"This would produce several millions of dollars for purses at Canterbury, and in addition any tribal government that chooses to take the simulcast signal will be involved in a revenue split among the racetrack, tribal government and horse industry," Rosenbaum said. "We would draw the kind of poker players from around the country that Canterbury would like to draw."
Tribal spokesman Willie Hardacker said, "The tribe recognizes Canterbury and the horse industry need more tools to be economically viable in the long-term, so the tribe is willing to discuss with Canterbury the possibility of having Canterbury get more tools."
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Dakota Community will support tools, but not slot machines, however, Hardacker said.
Rosenbaum explained that the racetrack decided a few days ago to stop its push for a racino this session due to political realities, but a legislator still added it to the stadium bill last week.
"That wasn't our play," he said. "The person who added it in fact voted against the bill. Some people viewed that as a Trojan horse."
The racino provision, which was threatening to doom a Vikings deal, was later pulled from the $1 billion state Senate stadium bill after news that the track reached an agreement with the tribe on the expansion of poker, according to a report by Minnesota Public Radio.
"There was no quid pro quo," Rosenbaum said. "Clearly this is more palatable to tribes than racino, but this does not in any way preclude Canterbury from trying to get a racino next year."
Rosenbaum said Canterbury has had ongoing discussions with the tribe over the years, but last week is when talks really started rolling on the poker and simulcasting proposal.
"It's no secret Canterbury is in dire need of increasing its purses or the state of Minnesota will stop producing foals," Rosenbaum said. "The nature of horse racing today, if you are going to be successful, you need something to expanded purses beyond horce racing. Most successful tracks have racinos. Canterbury needed something and I think even Mystic Lake realized this."
Mystic Lake Casino could offer the same type of poker currently played at Canterbury Park, but the tribe has chosen not to compete with the neighboring racetrack as a matter of "respect," Hardacker explained.
The proposed legislation would permit Canterbury to offer a level of poker not currently allowed without state permission.
Mystic Lake, which is governed by a federal Indian gaming act, is researching whether a special state compact is needed for Minnesota tribes to offer simulcasting of horse races.
Reported by: Chanhassen Villager