05/16/2012 2:39PM

Canterbury: Relaxed gaming rules should help business


SHAKOPEE, Minn. – For the first time in many years, Canterbury Park will begin its racing season Friday evening amidst optimism regarding the future of racing in Minnesota. The track has joined forces with the state’s Native American casinos in an accord that would allow changes in the betting structure and table game numbers at the racetrack while providing simulcasting at the Native-owned casinos.

Under the agreement, Canterbury Park can expand its number of table games from 50 to 80; run unlimited tournaments; change the method by which card games are played to conform to the method of play in nearly all North American casinos; raise the betting limit from $60 to $100 per hand and allow the Native-owned casinos to negotiate with track officials for the ability to offer simulcasting to casino patrons. There could be up to 18 simulcast outlets around the state if every casino installs a simulcasting center, though this appears unlikely. The Minnesota Racing Commission will also need to weigh in on simulcasting regulations before any offtrack wagering can begin.

“While this legislation will not solve the revenue problems the industry faces, it is an important step in the right direction for Minnesota horse racing,” track president Randy Sampson said. “We are grateful the legislature and governor recognized the current, fragile state of horse breeding and horse racing in Minnesota and provided new tools we can use to strengthen our business and enhance purses. We also appreciate the support of the tribal gaming industry in Minnesota.”

“In addition, we are currently having conversations with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux community regarding potential joint marketing and purse enhancements.”

On the wagering front, Canterbury has taken the bold step of slashing takeout on its rolling pick 3 and two pick 4 wagers from 23 percent to 14 percent.

“We’re excited to offer our players the lowest pick 4 takeout rate and the second-lowest pick 3 takeout rate in North America,” Sampson said. “It’s our hope that this lower takeout makes Canterbury Park the place to play horizontal wagers.”

On the racetrack, leading trainer Mac Robertson will be back, as will perennial title contenders Bernell Rhone and Michael Biehler. Valerie Lund returns for the summer with graded stakes winner Atta Boy Roy, while leading Quarter Horse trainer Bob Johnson is also back to defend his title with a mixed stable of Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses.

The jockey colony will again feature defending champion Dean Butler and Canterbury Park Hall of Famer Derek Bell. Shifting their tack to Minnesota this summer will be former Hawthorne Park champion jockey Tanner Riggs and veteran Bobby Walker Jr.

Canterbury Park will conduct a 62-day Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse meet that will run through Sept. 3. Thursday and Friday racing will begin at 7 p.m. with weekend and holiday racing beginning at 1:30  p.m.