Minnesota Racing Commission to take up Canterbury-casino deal

  • Article by: TONY KENNEDY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 6, 2012 - 6:41 AM

Racing Commission is to hold a special meeting next Wednesday.

The Minnesota Racing Commission will hold a special meeting next week in Shakopee to consider a proposed agreement that would send tens of millions of dollars from Mystic Lake Casino to Canterbury Park to enhance track winnings and stabilize the state's horse racing industry.

Barring unforeseen court involvement, the commission will have the only public authority over the proposed deal between Canterbury's private owners and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, owners of Minnesota's largest gambling house.

The deal announced Monday stunned the state's gambling and political communities by creating a partnership that appears to cement the tribe's local monopoly on casino-style gambling.

The Mdewakanton Sioux have agreed to pay $75 million over 10 years into racing purses at Canterbury. In exchange, the rival track would drop its longstanding campaign to add video slot machines, which threatened to cut into Mystic Lake's most lucrative business.

One group that might speak against the marriage is Running Aces harness track in Columbus, Minn., which will receive nothing from Mystic Lake and will lose its longtime lobbying partner, Canterbury, in the political quest to expand the use of slot machines in Minnesota. Canterbury would join the Mdewakanton Sioux in advocating against any off-reservation expansion of gambling in the metropolitan area.

Bob Farinella, general manager of Running Aces, said on Tuesday he is eager to see the details of the proposed agreement. But he said he won't "presuppose" if his company will take a stance before the Racing Commission, take legal action or do nothing.

The only agenda item at next Wednesday's meeting is for the nine-member commission to discuss and vote on whether to approve the proposed initiative.

Meanwhile, the tribal chairman of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa near Lake Vermillion in northern Minnesota said Tuesday the deal in Shakopee should benefit all tribes with casino operations. That's because it will reduce the threat of gambling expansion beyond the state's reservations.

"I can't see anyone opposing it,'' said Kevin Leecy, whose tribe owns Fortune Bay Resort Casino. "I'm glad they worked something out and this should allow the Legislature to focus on things more important than gambling.''

Tony Kennedy • 612-673-4213

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