WOOD VILLAGE, Ore. – Oregonians got their first glimpse on Thursday of what a new casino and entertainment complex just outside Portland could look like. But before it becomes a reality, the project has to clear two major hurdles on the November ballot.
Dubbed “The Grange,” developers of the proposed casino in Wood Village tout their project as a high-end entertainment complex featuring local food, a hotel, concert hall and smoke-free casino.
The branding is all part of a move to convince voters across the state the project is a good idea. The Grange can only be built if Oregon voters approve two measures.
Measure 82 calls for broadly authorizing private casinos in Oregon, and Measure 83 asks specifically if one should be permitted at the former dog track, which was known as the Multnomah Kennel Club.
The public won't be voting on specific development plans and the investors would be free to modify them.
Two years ago a similar proposal was rejected by voters.
Developers hope to build The Grange at the abandoned greyhound racetrack. A slick YouTube video they released on Thursday starts with sweeping shots of the track before transitioning into renderings of the proposed complex.
Critics of the plan say the casino would take gambling dollars away from the tribal casinos around the state and the Oregon Lottery.
"They're trying to get Oregon voters to amend the constitution to create a mega-casino in Oregon," said opponent Justin Martin with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. "As Oregon has it now there's a unique balance where all of the gaming dollars go into public services. For tribes that goes into education, health, housing, elder housing, drug and alcohol programs."
He added that lottery proceeds fund K-12 education, parks, wildlife and economic development.
"What these guys are now trying is to build a mega-casino that would give a little bit back to Oregon, but the reality is it would put a lot of money in their pockets," Martin said. "We're talking about foreign corporations and we're talking about two wealthy gentlemen from Lake Oswego."
Two Canadian companies are behind the proposed development.
Grange developers point to the economic benefits of their project, including 3,000 construction jobs, 2,000 permanent jobs with health care and a projected $100 million a year in tax revenue for the state.
“Oregon needs jobs – good union jobs that pay fair wages and provide full benefits,” said Jodi Guetzloe Parker, Executive Secretary Treasurer of the Columbia Pacific Building Trades Council. “The Grange will inject millions of private dollars into our economy. It will put thousands of construction workers to work immediately and support thousands more good, stable jobs into the future.
"We want to embrace the people that think this is a bad idea," said Jeff Parr, co-chief executive of Clairvest Group Inc., a Toronto-based investment firm with a number of casino holdings. He said developers want to have a conversation with those people and help them understand the project.
Still, the talk of added jobs doesn't sway Martin and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, which owns and operates Spirit Mountain Casino.
"At face value it certainly looks like a good thing," Martin said. "The reality is that they're not giving as much back as is being taken out."
The Associated Press contributed to this story