Grants Pass gaming threat is finally kaput
By Dean Rhodes
Smoke Signals editor
GRANTS PASS – Dutch Bros. co-founder Travis Boersma has officially given up his effort to revive professional horse racing in Oregon and install slot machine-like historic racing machines at the proposed Flying Lark entertainment center at Josephine County Fairgrounds.
Boersma notified the county that his company, TMB Racing, was terminating its 99-year lease to use the county fairground track after he reportedly invested $50 million to upgrade the track into a professional facility he called Grants Pass Downs.
Along with the horse racing, Boersma proposed an adjacent casino that would have featured historic racing machines, which drew the attention of Oregon’s federally recognized Tribes, including the Grand Ronde Tribe, as a new threat to Native American gaming in the state.
The 35,000-square-foot building that Boersma envisioned as a “gaming, entertainment and dining venue” adjacent to the race track drew opposition from then-Gov. Kate Brown, who refused to make an exception from the state’s policy that casinos are allowed only on Native American land.
Boersma argued that the Flying Lark wasn’t a casino because its betting machines were based on historic horse races, but the Oregon Department of Justice issued an opinion in February 2022 that installation of the historic racing machines would constitute a casino and would be unconstitutional, which prohibited the Oregon Racing Commission from approving the non-horse racing portion of Boersma’s proposal.
The lease termination will cost Josephine County $313,999 annually and the Flying Lark laid off more than 200 workers when it was rejected by state officials.
Includes information from The Oregonian and Grants Pass Daily Courier.