Proposal to Allow Private Casinos in Oregon Makes November Ballot


Oregon residents will vote on a proposal to allow non-tribal casinos to operate in the state on the November ballot.

The Secretary of State's Office certified the initiative on Friday, reported the Associated Press. The measure would remove a ruling in the Oregon constitution that only tribally owned casinos are permitted in the state. Oregon tribes operating the state's nine casinos have pledged to fight attempts to repeal Oregon's ban on non-tribal gambling facilities.

The amendment includes some restrictions on non-tribal casinos. Each proposed gaming facility would require voter authorization throughout the state and in the city where it would be located. Additionally, it must be built at a 60-mile distance from the nearest tribal casino, reported KUOW.org.

The measure is primarily sponsored by two Lake Oswego businessmen, Matthew K. Rossman and Bruce Studer, who are pushing for a private casino at the former Multnomah Kennel Club in West Villge, outside Portland. Plans call for a casino with 3,500 slot machines and 150 card and roulette tables, a hotel, a theater and a fun park featuring a giant water slide, reported the Willamette Week.

A similar initiative introduced by the pair was added to the ballot in 2010 and rejected by a 68 percent to 32 percent vote. That year, the backers poured $2.3 million into their campaign efforts.

This year's intiative is again financed by Clairvest, a Canadian investment firm that specializes in gambling.

What's changed since 2010? According to the Willamette Week, Rossman and Studer have forgone plans to create a monopoly on private casinos, and they have reworked how they would share gambling revenues with education and interest groups.

But the greatest change in strategy is Studer and Rossman have stepped down from the role as spokespersons for the campaign, and instead rely on Anna Richter Taylor, the former spokeswoman for ex-Gov. Ted Kulongoski. She is now an employee of Gallatin Group, a lobbying and consulting firm.

Interestingly, for most of the past decade, Gallatin advised the Grand Ronde tribes, owners of the state's largest casino, Spirit Mountain. But Gallatin has switched teams, and Grand Ronde spokesman Justin Martin told the Willamette Week he’s “very disappointed" by their decision, calling it "somewhat of a surprise.”

“We had a long relationship with Gallatin,” Martin told the newspaper.

Rossman and Studer also added two more key players to their side: Portland political consultant Mark Wiener, who specializes in campaign mail, and Kevin Looper, a veteran campaign strategist who primarily works on ballot measures.

While the November ballot will include the new measure, elections officials are currently reviewing signatures on a separate ballot initiative that would ratify the Wood Village proposal.