Thursday, February 13, 2014

Canterbury Pens Another Landmark Agreement With Minnesota Native Band

Canterbury Park and the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe announced an agreement yesterday to bring Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse simulcasting to northern Minnesota.  The Leech Lake Band operates the Northern Lights, Palace and White Oak casinos in north central Minnesota.

This breakthrough management agreement will start bringing the racing signal to folks in areas of Minnesota that cannot easily access Canterbury Park. 

"There is significant interest in live horse racing in northern Minnesota, so we see a great opportunity to meet customer demand and continue to support our mission of community development," explained Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Chairwoman Carri Jones.  "We are thrilled to create these agreements with Canterbury Park and the organizations that represent world-class thoroughbred and quarter horse racing."

According to Canterbury Park President Randy Sampson, "Providing simulcast management services to the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe will increase exposure to racing and increase Minnesota's live racing purses."

Just how would purses increase?

According to the fact sheet accompanying the press release, revenue from the enterprise will be split three (I guess technically 4) ways:

- Canterbury Park will be paid a fee based upon net revenues in exchange for management services;
- The HBPA and the MNQHRA, under a separate agreement with Leech Lake, will dedicate a portion of net revenues to purse enhancements for each breed.
- The remaining revenues go to the Leech Lake Band for community development.

This became possible through enabling legislation passed in 2012 that allows Canterbury Park to transmit telecasts of races held and simulcast there to sovereign tribal nations who are conducting gaming operations authorized by a state-tribal nation compact under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

I don't expect that this will result in a windfall of money to the Band, the track or the horsemen, but it will expose folks to racing in other areas of the state and hopefully Leech Lake will be the first domino to fall.  Walker, Minnesota isn't exactly a populous area - though in the summers it is in the heart of prime recreation areas - but I CAN see how an agreement with the Fond du Luth Band to run a simulcasting operation in downtown Duluth could be tremendous economic benefit to all parties.

There are still hurdles to clear before any simulcasting can begin.  The agreement needs to be approved by the Minnesota Racing Commission as well as the National Indian Gaming Commission.  In my experience with the NIGC, I would anticipate that a decision would be reached within 8 weeks of receipt of the agreement while I'm not aware of when the MRG will take up the issue.

In and of itself, this single agreement may not have a significant effect for any of the parties but it is an indication of the vision and long term commitment and planning of Canterbury Park management to the vibrancy of Minnesota racing.  But as more Bands sign on, the cumulative effect WOULD be significant and it all started here.

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