Ignorance is not bliss. That’s the stance of Oregon legislators, who have agreed to do a comprehensive review of the state’s gambling industry for the first time since 1996. The review could impact gambling in Oregon.
Over the past 26 years, the gambling landscape in Oregon and across the nation has changed drastically, Oregon House Speaker Dan Rayfield said in a press release about the review. And with so much change, it no longer does the state any good for its lawmakers to avoid a stone-cold analysis of the state’s gaming universe. Rayfield said:
“The scope of legal gambling has expanded and changed in major ways in recent years. Americans spent more money on gambling in 2021 than in any previous year. We must be mindful of the wide-ranging impacts of this growing industry, including on sovereign tribal governments and Oregonians struggling with addiction. This is an important time to study how other states are approaching this new era, understand opportunities and risks, and ensure we have the right regulatory framework in place as gaming technology evolves.”
What the committee will do
A committee of eight lawmakers will oversee the process. The lawmakers on the bipartisan committee are:
- Sen. Sara Belser Blouin, D
- Rep. John Lively, D
- Sen. Dick Anderson, R
- Sen. Lynn Findley, R
- Rep. Andrea Valderrama, D
- Rep. Kim Wallan, R
- Rep. Boomer Wright, R
The review will culminate with a report offering analysis across a wide range of industry topics, including:
- Existing gambling laws and structures
- The role lawmakers should play in approving new gaming legislation and expansion
- How tribal and state gaming relate
- Treatment and recovery resources
- Growth of gambling technology
Senate President Peter Courtney said of the review:
“We want to know what is and isn’t working. We’ve given the individuals on this committee a big job … gambling has a huge impact on our state. I appreciate them for stepping up to the task.”
Why the gambling review is important
For the past year or so, the state’s federally recognized tribes have wanted (and asked for) a review of this type. After battling with the state and billionaire Travis Boersma over a new gaming facility, the tribes were looking for some clarity on state law. Also, they wanted more communication.
The launch of the review seems to be another big win for the tribes in 2022. Earlier this year, the Oregon Department of Justice essentially shut down a Boersma gaming facility because its slots-like historic horse racing machines (HHRs) would constitute a casino.
But what exactly will come of the report? What changes will it suggest? Those are questions that have some pretty slippery answers.
Predicting what measures lawmakers might suggest
At the forefront of the gaming discussion in Oregon are two issues: commercial (non-tribal) casinos and sports betting. It’s nearly a certainty the committee will focus on these two areas among other issues. What will they find? There are many possibilities:
- Tribes should have more involvement in gaming legislation
- Commercial casinos could provide a big boost to state revenue
- Sports betting should expand beyond a single operator
- If legalized, commercial casinos may need to share revenue with tribes
- How many new casinos would be allowed
- Clarification on HHRs
These possible outcomes from the review could impact gambling in Oregon for years to come. However, they’re just projections based on recent and not-so-recent events. So, the message for now? Sit tight and let the legislators do their work.