Tribal Government & News

Rejected private casino proposal returning to Oregon ballot in November

Like the spirits in "Poltergeist," they're back.

Two measures that would amend the Oregon Constitution to allow private casinos in the state and another that would specifically approve one going into the former Multnomah Greyhound Park in Wood Village have qualified for the November ballot, the secretary of state's office said.

With a signature validity rate of 55.35 percent, the constitutional measure had 116,521 valid signatures, slightly more than the 116,284 required to qualify initiatives seeking to amend the constitution.

The required companion measure that would allow a privately owned commercial casino at the old greyhound racetrack in the east Multnomah County city of Wood Village qualified with 90,720 signatures verified out of 154,159 submitted.

Both ballot measures are being sought by backers of a proposed private casino in Wood Village, which would be the first in Oregon not operated by a Native American Tribe.

In 2010, private casino backers failed to obtain enough signatures to put the constitutional amendment measure on the ballot. However, they did place a measure on the ballot that would have located the casino in Wood Village and Oregonians soundly rejected the idea 68 percent to 32 percent.

The measure was opposed by all nine Oregon Tribes, who coalesced together under the Oregon Tribal Gaming Alliance.

Currently, the Oregon Constitution prohibits private casinos. Only the state's nine federally recognized Tribes are allowed to operate casinos with federal permission and under compacts signed with the state.

The new constitutional amendment is backed by the same two Lake Oswego businessmen and financially supported by the same Canadian investment firm that pushed the failed 2010 effort.

A private casino in the metropolitan Portland area will have detrimental effects on all of Oregon's Tribal casinos, but most particularly Spirit Mountain Casino owned by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

Revenues generated by Tribal casinos are funneled back into Tribal governmental programs and help pay for Tribal member health care, education, cultural efforts, Elder pensions and other worthwhile programs that federal allocations fail to fund.

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde also uses casino revenues to support Spirit Mountain Community Fund, which has given more than $56 million to charitable organizations since it was founded in 1997.

To build a private casino in Wood Village, supporters will need to get both measures approved by voters during the November election, and then would need the residents of Wood Village to approve the idea as well.