In their campaign ad, "Different," proponents of a new casino in Wood Village assure viewers that their proposal would not lead to a proliferation of gambling complexes in Oregon.
"There are nine casinos in Oregon today," the speaker says with words on screen to that effect. Ballot measures "82 and 83 authorize just one more. The Grange in Wood Village."
The Grange is a proposed $300 million entertainment complex at the old greyhound racing track in east Multnomah County. We wanted to know if the claim was accurate.
First of all, why are there two ballot measures? Let’s work backward, with the simpler measure first. Measure 83 sets the statutory parameters for the casino in Wood Village, including authority for up to 3,500 slot machines. This goes nowhere if Measure 82 is not approved.
Why? Because Oregon has a constitutional ban on any casinos not run by tribes. Measure 82 would delete that language to allow the Oregon Lottery to permit "a taxpaying casino" -- i.e. a nontribal casino -- only if certain conditions are met:
Voters authorize the casino by initiative petition. This is what these casino backers did, paying for circulators to collect enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot. Now voters statewide get to vote.
The casino will be in an incorporated city, with residents in that city voting to approve the casino. Wood Village will vote on a local measure Nov. 6.
The casino will be owned and operated by a corporation incorporated in Oregon. PDX Entertainment Company incorporated in March, according to the secretary of state’s office.
The casino will not be within a 60-mile radius of a tribal casino operating on reservation land in Oregon as of January 2011. The Wood Village casino would be 75 miles away from the Grand Ronde’s Spirit Mountain Casino and 90 miles from the Warm Springs’ Indian Head Casino.
And finally, the casino will pay 25 percent of adjusted gross revenue to the state for public schools. This casino proposes to do just that.
Those are very specific criteria for a new casino in Oregon. Still, 82 does not put a limit on the number of new private casinos allowed, unlike in 2010 when the same investors tried to change the constitution to allow only their casino. This time, if investors want to open a casino in, say Cascade Locks, they could, provided they go through another round of statewide and local elections.
(And just so you know, in 2010, the measure changing the Constitution to allow one casino never made it to the ballot. The companion measure authorizing the Wood Village casino in statute did make it on the ballot and was defeated, two-to-one.)
Stacey Dycus, spokeswoman for the Yes on 82 and 83 campaign, said they’re not trying to hide the ball. The ad, she said, was largely in response to remarks by people opposed to the Wood Village casino, including Justin Martin, a lobbyist for the Grand Ronde tribe, which runs the very successful Spirit Mountain Casino.
"Once you knock out the barrier of the Constitution, what's to prevent the Legislature, or the next wealthy executive, from putting one between Salem and Eugene?" he told The Oregonian last month. (Well, as we spelled out above, lawmakers can’t put one on the ballot, Salem is too close to Spirit Mountain Casino; a spot somewhere south of Salem and north of Eugene may qualify for a casino, if backers go through the steps outlined above.)
"We thought that was creating confusion and that people thought that there might be a misconception," Dycus said. "We’re attempting to run a very fact-driven campaign, to give Oregonians all the information they need to make a choice. And after 83 and 82 pass, there will be just a 10th casino."
(In response to Dycus’s response, the spokeswoman for the other side said "the larger issue at stake is whether or not Oregonians want to fundamentally change how gambling is managed in Oregon and allow for multiple private-casinos around the state." Fair enough all around.)
But PolitiFact Oregon doesn’t care so much about the campaign insiders. We care about the casual viewer who comes across the ad and asks: Would this create just one new casino?
To that, we say, yes, it would create one new casino. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t tell the viewer that one of the two ballot measures changes the constitution to allow the possibility of more in the future. That detail is important. The Constitution has been amended numerous times, but it’s still the Constitution.
We rate the statement Half True -- partially accurate, missing an important detail -- and reserve the right to fact check Martin’s statement in the future.
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