4 Oregon governors oppose private casino measures
By Dean Rhodes
Smoke Signals editor
Four current and former Oregon governors have all gone on record in opposing Measures 82 and 83, which would amend the state Constitution and allow a private casino in Wood Village, in part because they feel the state should not break its promise to its nine federally recognized Tribes.
Current Gov. John Kitzhaber, who has been a longtime opponent of gambling in Oregon, filmed a campaign ad urging voters to reject Measures 82 and 83.
“He feels strongly about this,” said Tim Raphael, Kitzhaber’s spokesman, in the Oct. 4 Oregonian. “Among other issues, he strongly opposes breaking our promise with Tribal governments.”
On Monday, Oct. 8, former governors Vic Atiyeh, Barbara Roberts and Ted Kulongoski held a joint press conference to voice their opposition to the measures.
“This isn’t going to solve Oregon’s financial problems,” Kulongoski said. “I guarantee you, if this passes, it will have no impact whatsoever on the long-term picture.”
“Clearly this should send a resounding ‘no’ message to Oregon voters that these measures are bad public policy, bad for Oregon and clearly still a bad idea,” said Tribal lobbyist Justin Martin. “To have three former governors and our current governor in solid opposition also shows how integral and involved Oregon Tribes and Oregon leaders have been in creating such a unique and positive government-to-government relationship.”
Under compacts with the state, which are negotiated through the governor’s office, the state’s nine Tribes agreed to have only one casino. As part of those agreements, Raphael said, Tribes were promised there would not be competition from private casinos, which are prohibited by the state Constitution.
“They kept their end of the bargain,” Raphael said. “It’s wrong to break our agreement.”
At the Oct. 8 press conference, Atiyeh, Roberts and Kulongoski also expressed their concerns about breaking the state’s promise not to compete with Tribal casinos.
Kitzhaber filmed the ad on Friday, Oct. 5, for the It’s Still A Bad Idea Committee, which is leading the fight against the two measures. In 2010, Oregon voters rejected an identical proposition by a 68-32 percent margin.
The measures would allow a 3,500-slot machine casino at the former Multnomah Kennel Club in Wood Village, an eastern suburb of Portland. The measures are being backed by two wealthy Lake Oswego businessmen and two Canadian investors – Great Canadian Gaming Corp. and Clairvest.
Kitzhaber expressed his opposition to the measures as early as Aug. 28 in a letter to the Portland City Club.
“A private casino industry in Oregon is not good for our economy, our communities or our state,” Kitzhaber wrote. “A private casino industry would primarily benefit a few wealthy corporate executives and foreign investors while creating increased opportunities for corporate corruption and organized crime.”
Kitzhaber said private casinos will increase crime, drug and alcohol abuse and gambling addiction.
“According to the 2011 Oregon Problem Gambling Services Data Book, the estimated annual social costs of problem gambling to Oregonians is approximately $468 million even without operation of private casinos,” Kitzhaber wrote. “Opening the door to more gambling will only increase these problems and would prey on the most vulnerable populations in Oregon – the poor, the addicted and those who could least afford it.”
And he defended Oregon Tribes.
“When Oregon’s Tribes were first granted the right to build casinos, they voluntarily agreed to limit one per Tribe and to give back to the community through community benefit funds,” Kitzhaber wrote. “They’ve kept up their end of the bargain – donating almost $100 million to local charities all across Oregon. Allowing private casinos to enter Oregon will threaten this arrangement – the Tribes’ obligations to establish their community benefit funds are contingent on statewide prohibition of casinos – and is an affront to the sovereignty of the Tribes.”
According to the Oregon Tribal Gaming Alliance, Tribal gaming generated $1.62 billion in total economic output in Oregon in 2011, directly supporting more than 5,000 jobs and $208 million in wages and benefits.
In addition, through 2012, the Tribes’ charitable giving to nonprofits in Oregon has totaled more than $106 million.
An economic analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Revenue Office in July found that a large private casino in east Multnomah County would probably cost state and local governments money and would likely shrink the Oregon economy as well.
Also, the Oregon Citizens’ Initiative Review Commission voted 17-7 against the two measures in August.
Includes information from The Oregonian.