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Steve Karnowski, Associated Press, Published June 04 2012

Canterbury, Indian tribe in no-racino agreement

SHAKOPEE, Minn. — The Canterbury Park horse race track agreed to drop its long pursuit of slot machines in exchange for the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community paying the track $75 million to fatten its purses over 10 years under a deal announced Monday that protects the tribe's lucrative nearby casinos.

Canterbury has pursued slots for more than a decade, arguing that it needed more revenue to revive Minnesota's horse racing and breeding industries. The state's two tracks have been struggling to attract the best horses and jockeys against competition from other Midwestern tracks that pay higher purses, Canterbury president and CEO Randy Sampson said.

The tribe's money will allow Canterbury to more than double its purses within a few years, Sampson said.

The tribe will benefit, too, because the agreement solidifies the southwest corner of the Twin Cities metro areas as the premier entertainment and gambling destination for the region, said Edward Stevenson, president and CEO of the SMSC Gaming Enterprise, which operates the tribe's Mystic Lake and Little Six casinos just four miles down the road from Canterbury.

The agreement also includes the tribe paying $8.5 million for joint marketing. Stevenson noted that Canterbury doesn't have a hotel, golf course or slot machines, so the marketing deal will help Mystic Lake and Little Six woo more of the 10,000 to 12,000 fans who flock to Canterbury on a good day of live racing.

The deal still needs to be approved by the Minnesota Racing Commission. Sampson said both sides are hopeful that the commission will schedule a special meeting and approve it within a couple weeks.

Minnesota track owners and horse breeders had pushed to add slot machines to turn the tracks into "racinos" as a way to fund various state initiatives while helping the horse industry. But the plans have routinely failed in the Legislature, thanks to twin-pronged opposition from gambling opponents and American Indian tribes that want to block competition to their casinos.

It came up most recently in March amid the debate over funding for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium. A state Senate committee rejected the idea. Racino backers estimated at the time that adding about 2,000 slot machine-style games to Canterbury and Minnesota's other horse track, Running Aces Harness Park in Columbus, would generate up to $130 million in new tax revenue while boosting purses.

Bob Farinella, general manager of Running Aces, said his track wasn't part of the agreement and he couldn't comment further because he had no details. Farinella said he hadn't been aware any agreement was imminent.

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Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.