Gambling on a casino. Part 1: what the measures say

T.A. Barnhart

Gambling on a casino. Part 1: what the measures say

photo by "fd" on Flickr, used with permission

What follows over the next three days is my non-expert citizen examination of Measures 82 and 83. My strong inclination is to oppose these measures; I believe gambling to be as dehumanizing and destructive as any addiction. I’m sorry that Oregon relies so heavily on the Lottery and that tribes seem only to have gambling as an economic resource. But in looking at these two ballot measures, I tried to find reasons to be wrong. I especially looked for reasons to be hopeful about the jobs part of the proposal.

Today, I look at what the ballot measures actually propose, not what what is being said in ads, on websites or by proponents or opponents. Tomorrow, I go through the promises being made by backers of the casino and resort. On Friday, I’ll take the classic approach and follow the money using ORESTAR and a variety of other online resources.

And I’ll be clear at the outset: what I found did not change my mind. I made a number of discoveries that are troubling and one big surprise that closed the deal for me. But that is in Part 3 on Friday; today, the measures themselves. (You can find the text at the Elections Division website.)

Measure 82: Amending Section 4, Article XV of the Oregon Constitution

M82 is the easy one: it amends the state constitution to make a non-tribal casino possible:

  1. A casino can be set up if it’s in an incorporated city, the voters in that city approve it, and the casino is 60 miles from a tribal casino “on reservation land in Oregon on January 1, 2011”.
  2. The casino will pay the state of Oregon 25% of its "adjusted gross revenues" — that is, net receipts "received from games" (after paying winners).
  3. A fund is to be created to receive a portion of the contributed funds. This fund is created by M83.

So, for a casino to open, voters have to approve it, both state-wide and in the incorporated city. The reference to tribal casinos and January 1, 2011, will allow other casinos to open around the state even if they are close to a tribal casino — that opened after January 1, 2011.

Yes campaign advertising touts millions of dollars being contributed to the state; this money comes from gaming receipts only. All the money made from drinks, food, lodging, the gift shop, the farmers market, the water park — anything that is not gambling — is exempt from contribution to the fund. Taxes, of course, go into the General Fund and elsewhere; that issue is discussed in more depth tomorrow. For now, to be clear about the money being contributed to the state by the casino: every penny will be from either gambling or taxes.

Just so we’re clear on this.

Measure 83: the "Oregon Job Growth, Education and Communities Fund Act (Part II)”

Where M82 amends the state constitution to allow casinos to be built within incorporated cities, M83 gives permission for the Wood Village casino to be built (contingent upon a number of conditions, including normal planning processes). M83 requires that the developers spend a minimum of $250 million; what that will buy in a couple of years when the project would be ready to go, who knows? For now, it’s meant to send a message that the investors are serious about building this right. Voters would be depending on city, county and state officials who would eventually approve the project to ensure the various promises being made now are kept in two or three years.

The most important part of M83 is not about approving the casino or setting conditions for how it is run; the critical part of M83 is the “Oregon Job Growth, Education and Communities Fund”. Promotional materials from the Yes campaign suggests several totals to be expected: $100 million to schools, service and communities; $12 million to parks and wildlife. M83, however, does not provide totals; it creates a fund and divides up casino money.

The casino will send 25% of “adjusted gross revenues” (AGR) to the state: gaming revenues minus payouts to winners. 80% of that total goes to the Lottery Fund; the remaining 20% goes to the new Fund created by M83. The Fund is carefully divvied up in M83. Although the 2010 ballot measures made the same promise to return 25% of AGR to the state, they didn’t have any specificity on that. In 2012, they’re addressing that perceived short-coming. Here’s how the Fund distributes it’s portion of casino monies: