Gorge Casino: Bad Idea?

Three groups joined in an unlikely coalition to oppose the tribal casino in Cascade Locks: the Oregon Restaurant Association, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, and the Oregon Family Council.  And boy, did they have different reasons.  In a letter to Gale Norton, Secretary of the Interior, they argured that "it would lead to social and moral decay"; that by cutting into local lottery revenues it would damage schools; and in the most plausible complaint, that it would increase traffic and pollution in the Gorge.  (It won't take much thinking for wise readers to determine which groups are worried about which ills.)

On the other side is the Governor, who managed to extract an agreement from the Warm Springs tribes that would funnel $200 million a year back into state coffers:

In exchange for getting a casino in Cascade Locks, the Warm Springs tribes agreed to turn over as much as 17 percent of their gross gambling profits to state programs, mostly to provide tuition aid to college students.

The tribes, which approved the plan Monday, also agreed to give the state 175 acres of environmentally sensitive land near Hood River, allow casino workers to unionize and build a $20 million freeway interchange for casino access.

In addition, tribal leaders said they would establish a local charitable fund similar to those established by other casino tribes in Oregon. The tribes would turn over 6 percent of their net gambling profits to this fund for use in the Cascade Locks area.

It's a deal that cuts across the political divide in strange ways.  Which camp do you side with?


  • Trey (unverified)

    Let 'em build the damn thing! I'm not a big fan of gambling, but I find it poetic justice that tribes are now exacting economic revenge against the Great White Father by getting their money from white society by allowing white society to voluntarily fritter it away.

    If tribes had other viable options for the creation of economic development, there wouldn't be this push nationwide to build casinos. But let's get real. Their reservations, by and large, were situated on less desireable real estate and they don't possess very many viable options.

    So let 'em build it.

  • (Show?)

    If you oppose the casino you might want to take this action.

    Here's the background:

    The Issue Will Oregon's first off-reservation casino will be placed in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area? The outcome will be determined by Gale Norton, Secretary of the Interior. Even though Governor Kulongoski is supporting this casino development, the Bush administration has expressed concern about off-reservation casinos. Congressman Wu has come out against it and Senator Smith may do so as well. We have a real chance to stop this thing. Read on or click here to quickly scroll down to our action form >>

    A Dangerous Precedent: Off-Reservation Casinos in Oregon All casinos in Oregon are located on reservation lands, consistent with the state policy on casino gambling. Allowing one off-reservation casino in the Columbia Gorge would create pressures to allow more off-reservation casinos in the Gorge and throughout Oregon. If approved, this casino will upset the balance that has been established in Oregon by limiting casinos to reservation sites and will put casinos within a 30 minutes drive of the Portland metropolitan area. At least three other tribes have a stake in the Columbia Gorge and they may all demand equal treatment. The Grande Ronde Tribes have already sought to establish a casino within Portland's urban area and would likely pursue this action with renewed vigor if the Columbia Gorge casino is approved. While we support the Tribes quest for economic stability, this goal can and must be met without starting an escalating casino war.

    Impact to the Gorge The Columbia Gorge will be severely impacted by the proposed 500,000 square foot casino and its estimated 3,000,000 visitors per year.

    Air pollution is already at a dangerous level in the Gorge. A recent study showed that fog and rain in the Gorge is 10 to 30 times more acidic than usual Northwest rainfall, and it stands among some of the most polluted airsheds in the country, including Pittsburgh and Los Angeles. Millions of additional cars in the Gorge will worsen existing air pollution. The sprawling mega-casino with its immense parking lots and profuse lighting will create a visual blight that will be visible for miles within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The small town of Cascade Locks would soon face demands to expand their urban growth boundary into currently-protected scenic area lands. The area around the casino is home to bald eagles (listed as a "threatened" species), ospreys, great blue herons, salmon (listed as a "threatened" species) and steelhead (listed as a "threatened" species). Negative Trade-Off for Jobs and Small Business While expanded gambling does provide employment, the jobs created are often of lower value than the jobs destroyed, as gambling industry work is characterized by high turnover rates (Stedham and Mitchell, 1996) and tends to be insecure, part-time, low-skilled, and low paid employment (Henriksson and Lipsey, 1999). (Review of Gambling Literature in the Economic Policy Domains, Alberta Gaming Research Institute, Oct. 2000)

    Gambling Addiction Hurts our Families and Burdens Our Communities Based on empirical evidence stemming from studies conducted in Oregon, it is estimated that approximately 35,800 adult Oregonians are problem gamblers and an additional 23,000 are pathological gamblers. Most recent national estimates place the social-economic cost of problem gamblers at approximately $3,000 each and $11,000 for each pathological gambler—or an estimated social-economic cost in excess of $361 million for Oregonians. Gambling treatment programs that are within 50 miles of a casino treat three times the proportion of casino gamblers than other programs. (Source: Oregon Department of Human Services, Gambling Treatment Programs Evaluation Update, 2003)

    Take Action Secretary Norton needs to hear from you, in your own words, that an off-reservation casino in one of our nation's most spectacularly scenic places would violates everything Oregonians and Americans treasure.

    Need more background information before taking action? Please visit our in-depth page >>

    Please edit the sample letter provided below and tell Secretary Norton why she should reject the casino proposal in the Columbia River Gorge. Your letter will be sent to the Secretary and Senators Smith and Wyden, and Governor Kulongoski will be copied.

  • Yoram (unverified)

    Of course, they could build the damn thing and then their revenue-sharing plan could be thrown out in court. As President Bush would misquote, screw us once, shame on you, screw us twice, shame on us.

    Build it in Portland or don't build it at all.

    Don't mess with our national treasure in our back yard. We don't need to throw ourselves like some McCallian hungry hussy at every smokestack or casino prostrating itself and offering us money.

    On a related note, I was at Cascade Locks this weekend and there was a "thanks governor" sign on the Bridge of the Gods. Illegal? Probably. Good PR to force them to remove it?

  • Jim (unverified)

    I lived near an Indian casino in the Seattle area for several years and believe me, the traffic, congestion, light pollution, noise, and crime -- including a triple homicide less than a mile from my front door -- was terrible. The casino turned a decent, middle-class neighborhood into a dump (albeit a "profitable" dump), and I couldn't wait to get out of there. Last time I checked they were building a gigantic, ten-story parking garage in what had been a forest.

    Oregon should say NO to casinos.

  • (Show?)

    Don't mess with our national treasure in our back yard. We don't need to throw ourselves like some McCallian hungry hussy at every smokestack or casino prostrating itself and offering us money.

    Yeah, that Cascade Locks is a Scenic Wonderland alright. We'd all mourn the loss of the natural beauty that defines the town..........

  • Gordie (unverified)

    It's not certain that state having the tribe pay a percentage of the gambling profits to the state is constitutional...it may be interpreted as an illegal taxation. What are the odds that the tribe builds the casino, then uses its freshly deep pockets to litigate and get out of paying the percentage? Much of the logic for allowing the casino would go out the window.

  • I heart gambling (& it hearts me, too) (unverified)

    Bring it on. I can't wait for the convenience of having a casino so close to my East Portland home. Maybe we can even get the #77 bus line to keep going past Edgefield all the way out! I'm sure my debt problems can be erased if I just get dealt the right hand!

  • (Show?)

    if we're not willing to eliminate all casino gambling in this state, how hypocritcal is this? suddenly we say no? on what basis?

    gambling needs to be completely eliminated, i think, and environmentally sensitive areas carry special requirements. but i'm finding it hard to oppose this casino, although both the pollution and off-reservation arguments are fairly persuasive. beyond that, however, we're moving into unsound areas -- hypocrisy.

  • pdxswimmer (unverified)

    I could give a damn about casinos and gambling, but don't touch my Columbia Gorge!! It's pretty, does not have a lot of traffic really, and...well it's pretty! I don't want to lose pretty nature views to RV's up and down the Gorge...

  • Jenny (unverified)

    And yes, even if the casino is in not-pristine Cascade Locks it (and the air pollution) affects the rest of the gorge.

  • Peter (unverified)

    Cascade Locks IS a Scenic Wonderland, if you have ever spent any time there! Its one of the most beautiful places in the Gorge, cliffs, rock bluffs and beatuful waterfront. I live in the Gorge and believe the casino will have the effect of putting the whole Gorge on growth steriods!

  • K. Sudbeck (unverified)

    No off-reservation casinos in Oregon! I'm against the casino, as it will ruin my view of the gouge and senic Cascade Locks, from my property in Stevenson, WA. But, it is raising the value of my lot. So am I an Environmentalist or a Republican? It must be the duality of man thing.

  • (Show?)

    Here's how I look at it.

    The tribe already owns property in the gorge. So saying "no off reservation casinos" will not keep the casino out of the gorge.

    The property is just up I-84 in Hood River. It is a popular nature area and building there would require quite a bit of cutting into the sides of the gorge, tearing out popular nature trails, etc.

    Instead, it will mean the tribe will build the casino on property that is pristine and a popular nature area instead of on industrial property.

    If I had to choose between the two properties, I would rather the tribe build on the Cascade Locks property rather than Hood River.

    The tribe will be making much more money off this casino than their current one near Madras, even with the money they'll be sending to the state. With many of their family members living off reservation, they too want to see our education system have more funding. They also want to see more money put into the environment. I don't see them trying to get out of this deal.

  • glenlivid (unverified)

    I'm against it for the same reasons Albert stated above. If we are going to start allowing more development in the gorge, which will lead to increased traffic and pollution, it shouldn’t be for a goddamn casino. Give me a break; it’s an amazing natural area, and development should be focused in the direction of exalting the beauty of the gorge instead of spitting on it.

    Casinos are ugly as hell. The exception may be the Billagio, but overall, casinos are as pathetic as Donald Trump’s hair. In terms of aesthetics, they rate right up there with strip malls, pawnshops and bowling alleys. Would we want to stick a giant Denny’s in the gorge? Casinos also contribute nothing culturally. The headline act is always Carrot Top, Jay Leno, or a magician who wears too much makeup. Someone should be looking at fine art while sipping wine and listening to a symphony in the gorge, not pulling on the handle of a slot machine while listening to a Dean Martin record.

    I’m amazed by some people’s priorities, and I’m really tired of our state government bending over for the tax revenue they get from gambling every chance they get. If we need increased revenue so badly, it’s really time to tighten the belt and find the real sources of missing revenue instead of acquiescing to the revenue generated by people losing their asses.

  • Gregor (unverified)

    The Gorge?!? They HAVE to have a casino in the Gorge?

    Why is it that these corporations get obsessed with locating something in a given place and refuse to consider any alternatives. Please don't elevate the tribes to be more then they are. They're a corporation with a twist. Will they try to skate out from under the deal? Of course, they're a corporation and that's why they have attorneys.

    Gambling is another vice that people have the right to "enjoy." People can enjoy it to death if they wish. This is a free country. If they don't, well, help is available. Better they never bet, but...booze, tobacco, pundits, it's all legal.

    Putting a casino in the Gorge is an insult to nature and what makes Oregon so livable. I would rather they never built another house there, myself never mind a casino. It's not that it's a casino. It's not that it's a Tribe. It's the freaking Gorge!!!

    As if there was no other place to build?

  • Ian (unverified)

    I am a resident of Cascade Locks. I have heard the benefits the casino will have on the community and have also heard the downfalls. Many people feel that a resort casino is the wrong type of development for the Gorge. However, I'd like to remind people that the proposed site is in an industrial park.

    I'd like to get some reaction as to the type of development that would be acceptable for this site. Those of you that feel nothing should locate here should be reminded that Cascade Locks is a community that is trying to grow just like all the others in the Gorge.

  • (Show?)

    That's just it Ian. Most of the opponents think that all development should be stopped everywhere right after their house is built.

  • kulongoski is out of his mind! (unverified)

    The Columbia River Gorge is such a beautiful area! I just recently moved to the gorge area from Portland and every day I appreciate the clean air and natural beauty all around me. And to think we want to ruin it for generations to come? Don't we want to preserve our area rather than to destroy it? Oregon is known for its wildlife and natural habitat. In fact, that's one of the reasons I moved to Oregon. Building this casino is only going to destroy what we have and I for one am COMPLETLY AGAISNT it.

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