Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tribe & Track Join Forces to Propel Minnesota Racing

Minnesota Thoroughbred racing just got a bit more interesting.  On Monday,  Canterbury Park signed an agreement with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) that provides security for the Community by way of Canterbury forgoing any lobbying for a racino (and agreeing to assist the SMSC in fighting other off-reservation gaming) in exchange for purse enhancement funds totaling $75 million dollars over 10-years plus another $8.5 million in marketing dollars to support join marketing efforts.

There are several wins here.

-        Horsemen.  The money provided goes direct to purses.  2012 will see an increase of about 35% in total purse money while 2013 may see another 25 – 30% increase or more.  The funds are staggered so the first year's payment (2012) is the lowest with the payments topping out at $8 million for each of the last 4 years.  State bred maidens will run for $25,600 now while the Lady Canterbury will go back to $100,000 for the first time in years.  Could a graded stake be too many years away?

-        Racing.  Purses won’t go insane here.  You won’t see $5,000 claimers running for $25,000, but you may see open allowances worth $35,000.  You’ll see the entire stakes calendar be black type races. The track has been able to do well drawing trainers and owners because of the fabulous relationship between backside and front.  Add competitive purses to the mix and it is going to be tough to find stall space.

-        Breeding.  It’s going to matter to have a MN bred again.  The small foal crop and increased purses makes for a perfect storm for the few folks that will have good quality MN breds hitting the track the next couple of years.  The money will be there for the taking.  Higher quality broodmares should start entering the state and when mated properly and the right amount of luck, should start producing higher quality horses that will be able to win anywhere.  Exactly where we want our breeding industry to end up.  I want to see a MN bred in the gate at the Breeders’ Cup by the end of this marketing arrangement!

-        SMSC.  The Community no longer has to spend millions for lobbyists to fend off the racino folks. With Canterbury out of the picture that train should really lose steam.  With a protected flank, the Community can now focus on other matters.

-        Shakopee/Prior Lake.  Your gambling destination resort in the Twin Cities.  Spend a day at the races and a night at the casino.  The track could conceivably now send its best bettors (and there are quite a few of them) to Mystic for a night to sample what the resort has to offer.  Additionally, the casinos can send folks over to the track for a reserved table and day of racing.  The possibilities are limitless and the local communities will benefit.

It’s not all peaches and cream for everyone, though.  There are some that find themselves on the outside looking in.
-        State of Minnesota.  The state actually will benefit a bit by this.  Keeping  the racing industry vibrant and growing, rather than declining, will attract more jobs, but their big money would be have been made by a racino so the state loses out on the possibility of $100 million plus a year.  Frankly, the agreement is a much better solution for racing and personally I love the cooperation between the Community and the track, but the state coffers might not think so.  Thank your rep if you’re upset about this one.  After 10+ years, it was time to take no for an answer.

-        Running Aces.  The harness track is left out of this picture.  It makes sense in a way – why would the SMSC care what happens in Columbus?  The fact is that even when Canterbury wanted racino, the views of how it would be implemented varied greatly between the two race tracks.  Canterbury wanted the majority of the money to be committed to purses while Running Aces wanted the majority of money to go the track operators.  You can’t blame them, they were built by a casino company and owned by private equity, but they were built on a bet on racino being legalized and lost.  Canterbury has been a vibrant piece of the business community in Minnesota for over 25 years – in fact was the first legal betting destination in the state.  I would suggest that Running Aces talk to the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, the owners of Grand Casino Hinckley, and try to reach a similar accord.  I would be surprised if agreement can be reached, however, if the operators of the track insist on a chunk of the money for themselves.

Ultimately though, this is a win/win.  Racino was never going to pass.  There may have been glimmers of hope to further other agendas from time to time, but ultimately it was not going to happen.  This type of cooperative arrangement is perfect.  Racing gets a legitimate shot to succeed which is all it can really ask for. 

Of course this agreement is only the beginning.  More trainers need to be recruited and, perhaps more importantly, simulcasting outlets need to be lined up.  I’m not talking about in state (though why say no to that?), but places like TVG and various OTB outlets around North America.  What will be happening at Canterbury is going to be significant and the product will be very sellable – it needs to get sold.  The more locations that the signal is shown the more the racing product is bet.  The product is going to be betable, let’s get it out there.

Breeding can now be done with a level of confidence that did not exist for the 2012 breeding season. You can bet that Minnesotans will be out to the various sales this summer and fall to start rebuilding broodmare bands.  Those of us with older racing mares will have to take a hard look at pedigree and racing record and determine if the shed might be in their future.

We’re on the verge of very exciting times for racing in the North Star State.  It won’t be overnight but the future is bright thanks to Canterbury Park management and the leadership of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.  Now it’s time to step up and seize the moment.

1 comment:

Tom Metzen said...

Great Blog as always Ted.