Casinos have a corrupting influence
- Gresham Outlook - Opinion
A consequence of allowing private casinos in Oregon - as proposed by Ballot Measure 75 - is the potential corruption it could introduce to local and statewide politics.
Such potential is now on full display in New York, where a competition for a major gambling facility was tainted with so much wrongdoing that the state inspector general saw fit to investigate. This week, he released a scathing 308-page report detailing the shady dealings that occurred behind closed doors as casino competitors tried to influence legislators and the governor with - among other things - $100,000 in campaign donations.
The New York experience has relevance to Oregon beyond providing a lesson in what can happen when you introduce Nevada-style gambling to your state. It just so happens that the original winning bidder in this process - a bidder later disqualified after being deemed unworthy of a gambling license in New York - was a consortium that included principals from the Clairvest investment group and the Navegante Group of Las Vegas.
These are the same companies that are providing financial backing for a proposed casino in Wood Village. To be fair, the companies eventually pulled out of the New York deal, after it was revealed that their local partner there had a number of legal problems. But the whole mess in New York (you can read about it on the New York Times website) is indicative of what can happen when you get involved with an industry that exists simply to gobble up money - usually from those who can least afford to lose it - without providing any tangible product in return.
Bad for the economy
While New York can provide an object lesson, local voters don't need to look east to come to the conclusion that a casino in Wood Village will be harmful to East County.
We believe a casino, if allowed, would define this community for decades to come. That's why we have firmly opposed the casino on the grounds that it won't generate new money in the community and that the social problems it brings will far outweigh any economic advantages.
But as the campaigns wind down and voters start filling out ballots, there are additional factors they should consider as they come to a final conclusion:
• Voters should first base their decision not on what has been promised by casino developers, but on what is actually stated in the ballot measure. This measure makes absolutely no guarantee that anything other than a casino will be built in Wood Village. This vote is not about something 'more than a casino,' as the sponsors have claimed. It is about authorizing a casino - you can read it in black and white.
• Voters should not be fooled by promises of an immediate $250 million investment. This measure allows whoever owns the old dog track in Wood Village to develop a casino and operate it for 15 years before having to satisfy the requirement for investing $250 million. The casino operators might decide to invest that money early on, or they could wait 15 years. Considering that nothing is going to happen at the old track for several years, even if Measure 75 passes, that means the bulk of the $250 million investment could be deferred until around the year 2030.
• Anyone who believes gambling can lead to prosperity ought to take a quick glance at Nevada. At this very moment, the nation's gambling capital has the highest unemployment rate in the nation, the highest rate of home foreclosures and the highest rate of bankruptcy. What does it say for a gambling economy when Nevada's jobless rate of more than 14 percent makes Oregon's rate of 10.6 percent look mild by comparison?
Make it a conclusive 'no'
Most indications right now are that Measure 75 will be defeated on Nov. 2. Oftentimes, it doesn't much matter whether a candidate or a measure wins or loses by one vote or by 1 million - it's a winner-take-all system.
But occasionally in politics - as in sports - there's value in running up the score. In the case of the casino, a definitive 'no' vote on Nov. 2 - both from East County and from voters statewide - will discourage casino investors from continuing to push this idea in future elections. Once the casino is dropped for good, then more realistic and economically productive plans for redeveloping the old greyhound park can move forward for the community's benefit.
The opinions expressed above are those of The Gresham Outlook's editorial board.