MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Racing season is underway at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, and the track is seeing some of the largest crowds in years.

Fans are walking away with more winnings because of a change to the betting system.

Canterbury reduced the amount it keeps from each wager this year, and the decision is attracting new business.

“What we’re seeing is that people that never had Canterbury on their radar, whether it’s in a facility in Las Vegas or in Florida, are now wagering on Canterbury,” said Eric Halstrom, Canterbury’s VP of racing operations.

Track officials decided to reduce the takeout amount over the winter months, which helps pay the bills and supplies the money for the winner’s purse.

Most race tracks across the country keep, on average, about 20.5 percent of each wager. Canterbury dropped to 16.5 percent which, from a business standpoint, is a gamble when sacrificing revenue.

“We talked to some of the biggest horse players around the country and asked if they’d participate more if we lowered our takeout, and the answer was 100 percent, yes,” Halstrom said. “On any given day, there’s 30 race tracks running in the country, and so what’s happened is people looking for value in the way they wager are going to race tracks that take the lowest amount. When you’re taking the lowest, you’re immediately on everyone’s radar.”

The more people wager, the more impact the added revenue could have on the competition.

“What we hope this does is increases the purses that we’re able to pay horsemen,” Halstrom said.

More prize money increases the interest in Canterbury on the racing circuit. Longtime Canterbury horse trainer Bernell Rhone believes the reduced takeout will ultimately attract some big names in horse racing.

“You want to win, but you don’t want to win at the lower end. You want to beat the big boys,” Rhone said. “It’s just a domino effect. The lower takeout just increases everyone’s optimism and profit.”

Rhone has already noticed a growing field of competition just two weeks into the racing season. He believes the track’s risk is already reaping some reward.

“There’s only a handful of tracks that are going to survive. This is one I think that’s got a very good shot of surviving and going bigger each year,” Rhone said.

Canterbury does not expect to increase the purse amount until next year. They first have to generate enough new business to increase the race prize.

The track’s racing season runs through September. Click here for a complete schedule.