Business sues state to force ruling on gaming in Grants Pass

01.12.2022 Dean Rhodes Gaming

TMB Racing, a company formed by Dutch Bros Coffee co-founder Travis Boersma, filed a motion to compel on Tuesday, Dec. 28, in Josephine County Circuit Court that would force the state to decide on plans for gambling at an entertainment complex adjoining a race track at the Josephine County Fairgrounds.

TMB Racing claims the Oregon Racing Commission has put the horse-racing venture in financial “limbo” by failing to vote on whether to approve plans for more than 200 gambling terminals in the Flying Lark’s “hospitality center.”

The Oregon Racing Commission is the agency that would determine the fate of Boersma’s plans, but it has twice postponed voting on the Flying Lark plans and has repeatedly put off votes on whether to approve four companies that will provide the technology to the Flying Lark.

Boersma’s plans drew heated opposition from the state’s Native American Tribes, including the Grand Ronde Tribe, which argue that allowing slot-machine-like historic horse racing machines at the Flying Lark would be unfair since only Tribes are allowed to operate casinos in Oregon. Their approval, Tribes contend, would hurt not only Tribal casino revenues, but the Oregon Lottery as well.

After receiving a letters from Oregon Tribal representatives, Gov. Kate Brown told Oregon Racing Commission members that they had a “statutory obligation” to consult with the Tribes. She also suggested that the commission seek a formal legal opinion from the Oregon Department of Justice on the legality of Boersma’s plans.

Tribal lobbyist and member Justin Martin said that Tribal consultation with the Oregon Racing Commission has not occurred yet.

“The key here is that this consultation isn’t regarding the (gaming) machines,” Martin said. “It would be to go over the ORC consultation policy, which has not been established in consultation with the Tribes as of yet.

“They have been claiming that we are ‘stalling’ or trying to postpone these meetings. That is certainly not the case. They’ve had ample time to do this over the years and only when they need something and are running into political hurdles and a ‘slow down’ notice from the governor have they instigated this outreach. We, as Tribes, have asked for consultation on several occasions and were told that there was nothing pending and therefore there was no need to do consultation.”

Boersma originally hoped to open the Flying Lark by October and then rescheduled to February. TMB is seeking a court order compelling the state to make a decision no later than Feb. 17.


Includes information from The Oregonian.