In Oregon, a trip to the casino often means a journey to one of Oregon’s nine tribal nations. Now, a group of developers hopes to break that monopoly. They envision a new multi-use casino and entertainment center, with water slides and a movie theater, all just a stone’s throw from downtown Portland. But voters would have to change the state’s Constitution to allow a non-tribal casino.
If this whole thing sounds a bit familiar, there’s a reason for that. Two years ago, these same developers gathered signatures for two nearly identical ballot measures that would have cleared the way for a project at the same site. But only one of those measures made the ballot. And when Casino backers rolled the dice anyway, those efforts came up a bust.
This time, the developers are hoping for different result. Both measures actually made the ballot, as well as a required local measure in the city of Wood Village. But all three of those votes would need to line up the same way for the project to move forward.
So let’s look the measures themselves. First, the general one.
Ballot Measure 82 amends the constitution to allow non-tribal casinos. It also requires those casinos to give a percentage of their revenue to the state lottery.
Ballot Measure 83 is the more specific measure. It authorizes the casino in Multnomah County and requires it to contribute a 25 percent of its gaming revenue to the state lottery.
Backers say the casino, which developers would call the Grange, could increase funding for Oregon schools by up a $100 million a year.
And for months now, backers have been touting project’s potential economic benefits in ads on local television.
This one features Tony Rice, an out-of-work bricklayer from Newberg.
In the commercial, he says “I’ve been looking for full-time work for over a year. If the Grange gets built here, it will bring a lot of good jobs. I’m guessing that the people that feel we don’t need to build the Grange already have good jobs.” Fades under.
Stacey Dycus is campaign manager for Yes on 82 and 83.
She says, “It would create 3000 construction jobs over a 2 year period and 2,000 permanent jobs to run the Grange.”
But Cynara Lilly says those jobs wouldn’t be created out of thin air.
She is a spokeswoman for “Still A Bad Idea,” the political action committee opposing the measures. She says most of the committee’s support comes from Oregon’s tribes which she says stand to lose visitors to conveniently located Portland-area casino.
Lilly says, “These aren’t new jobs. These are just trading jobs so the jobs that are lost at the tribal casinos might be made up for at the Wood Village casino but this isn’t a net positive for Oregon this is just moving jobs around.”
Lilly says tribes use casino revenue to fund social programs on the reservations and provide relief to areas of the the state that have been hit hard economically. She also says that since the largest investor in the project, The Clairvest Group is based in Canada, much of the profit generated would leave the region.
Casino backer, Stacey Dycus counters that not one of the state’s nine casinos pay any taxes to the state, even as the Oregon schools have endured deep cuts to funding.
Last week, Gov. John Kitzhaber entered the fray lending his support to efforts to defeat the measures. The Governor appears in a new television ad urging voters to reject both measures.