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Canterbury-Mystic Lake Deal Approved; Not Everyone Happy

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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ST. PAUL (WCCO) — The historic deal between Minnesota’s largest Indian casino and the largest horse racing track is taking a lot of heat.

But on Wednesday, the Minnesota Racing Commission approved the deal between Canterbury Park and Mystic Lake casino.

Not everybody is happy about it.

When Canterbury Park signed that landmark agreement with Mystic Lake, it ended 15 years of Racino wars. In doing so, it may have started another one with its sister race track to the north: Running Aces.

Mystic Lake Indian Casino agrees to pay Canterbury Park horse track $75 million dollars over 10 years.

Canterbury will oppose any efforts to legalize Racinos in Minnesota.

It sounds like a historic breakthrough, unless you’re Running Aces.

“We’re kind of like the red-headed step child living in the attic. We really haven’t been paid much attention to,” said Running Aces spokesman John Derus.

The northern Twin Cities race track said it will be hurt significantly by Canterbury’s deal. No matter what, it will continue to pursue slot machine gambling, which it believes is “close” to passing the Minnesota legislature.

“We see nothing wrong with them not pursuing Racino. That is certainly a business decision, as they said,” said Derus. “(But) we see a lot wrong with them going against it, and acting as an agent of the Mystic Lake. “

But Canterbury Park says its goal isn’t Racino gambling, it’s enhancing horse racing purses. It says the deal will double purse winnings, and rescue a dying Minnesota horse industry.

“The goal wasn’t’ casino. The goal was horse racing — making horse racing successful. This absolutely does that,” said Randy Sampson, president of Canterbury.

Canterbury says the 10-year deal will not only double purses at the track, but will make it one of the most sought after venues in the country.

Canterbury added that it’s now looking at a major new thoroughbred race, called the Mystic Cup.

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