A bill designed to protect Canterbury Park from losses during government shutdowns passed the Legislature in its waning hours, and was signed by the governor.
After the 2011 state government shutdown, Canterbury Park was forced to cease all gaming operations and temporarily lay off more than 1,000 employees from July 1 to July 20, resulting in an estimated loss of $3 million.
Local businesses and hotels surrounding Canterbury Park lost revenue and were forced to let go of employees as well. Families that loyally visit Canterbury Park each summer were turned away, Canterbury Park officials said.
“I was one of the only employees in the building at the time,” Canterbury Park spokesman Jeff Maday said. “I would get calls everyday from the local McDonald’s asking, ‘Are you going to open again?’”
The Minnesota Racing Commission regulates Canterbury Park and is funded by the racing industry; it gets no money from the state general fund. Canterbury Park and Running Aces Harness Park both went to court in July 2011 to appeal the park’s closure, hoping the MRC would be granted permission to operate during the shutdown. But they were denied their request.
So Shakopee Rep. Brad Tabke and Sen. Eric Pratt joined forces to pass a bill that would allow the MRC to continue functioning in the event of a government shutdown.
The bill says the MRC may operate during a shutdown by using its own funding, allowing Canterbury Park to stay open.
“It is really important that they stay open during their prime season,” Tabke said. “It was a hard, uphill battle that we all fought together and I’m really proud of that.”
Maday says the bill allows assurance for the future that operations will not be terminated if a shutdown were to occur again.
“Having that certainty that we won’t shut down and that sense of confidence that we can continue as planned provides some security, because it was challenging,” Maday said.