From The Statesman Journal:
By Peter Wong
A ballot measure authorizing Oregon’s first private casino got a thumbs-down recommendation from 17 of 24 citizen panelists assigned to study it.
The findings were released Friday afternoon, after the panelists took a week in Portland to hear from sponsors and opponents of Measure 82 on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Measure 82 would overturn a 28-year-old state constitutional ban on casinos, which now are allowed only by Oregon’s nine recognized tribes under federal law. Measure 83, a companion, would authorize a private casino on the site of the former Multnomah Greyhound Park in Wood Village east of Portland.
“Hearing from people from all different backgrounds, communities and perspectives was really valuable in helping me learn about the ballot measure and think through what would matter to voters across the state,” said panelist Joyce Brown of Lincoln City. “I think our findings do a great job incorporating those different points of view to provide voters with valuable information on the measure.”
Among the measure’s sponsors are Bruce Studer, a Lake Oswego businessman, and others, including Canadian investors. Among opponents are the tribes, including the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, which operate Spirit Mountain Casino.
“Both sides were here in force,” said Tyrone Reitman, executive director of Healthy Democracy Oregon, which oversaw the review process.
Two weeks ago in Salem, a similar panel reviewed Measure 85, which would do away with “kicker” refunds of excess corporate income taxes and put them into public schools.
“This panel had to work through a lot more information than the first panel did with Measure 85,” Reitman said. “But it was an amazing group of people.”
In addition to hearing from sponsors and opponents, panelists summoned their own witnesses before drafting conclusions and statements for and against Measure 82. Materials will appear in the state voters pamphlet and the online voters guide. The processes followed by both panels were similar.
Among the key findings of the Measure 82 panel:
Among the panel’s key findings were:
* Economists disagree on the long-term economic impact of private casinos in Oregon.
* For every dollar of revenue from video lottery terminals, about 65 cents goes to the Oregon Lottery. In addition, under Measure 82 for every dollar of revenue produced by private casinos, 25 cents would go to the state.
* Private casinos could negatively affect the gaming revenues of the tribal casinos and the communities they support.
* The Oregon Lottery and businesses with Oregon video lottery terminals that are located within a close proximity of a private casino would likely lose money.
* According to the “Measure 82 Estimate of Financial Impact” Measure 82 will have an unknown impact on state revenue, however, 25 percent of a private casino’s adjusted gross revenue will be given to the State of Oregon for specified purposes.
* In Oregon, the state government has compacts with all nine tribal governments, however, those agreements do not prohibit private casinos.
Voters rejected a similar proposed legal change in 2010. A companion constitutional amendment failed to qualify for the ballot that year.
A majority opposed the current measure because it would compete with the Oregon Lottery, which returns a greater share of its proceeds to the state. Private-casino supporters propose a 25-percent share to the state and other public purposes.
A minority thought a private casino would be good for the state and regional economies.
Panelists were chosen from across the state to reflect a variety of factors and mirror the state’s population.
“It’s been a great opportunity for ordinary people like me to sit down, learn about the issues, dig into the facts and help provide accurate and relevant information to Oregon voters,” said panelist Ed Susman of Ontario. “I hope everyone, regardless of how they vote on this measure, will take the time to consider the essential issues and facts we’ve identified over the past week of deliberations.”
Evaluations by universities and the Kettering Foundation will be prepared. They will consider how voters use the panel’s statements to make decisions during the election process.
The evaluations, plus comments by panelists and moderators, will be forwarded to the Citizens’ Initiative Review Commission created by the 2011 Legislature. The commission is funded by foundation grants and individual donations; it does not accept corporate or union money.
Two measures were reviewed in 2010, and one measure in 2008, while the process was still an experiment.
Reitman said there were out-of-state observers considering how the review process could work in their states. Among them, he said, were the League of Women Voters in Arizona, the secretary of state in California, and Common Cause in Colorado.