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Online Casinos in Oregon and State Gambling Laws

Oregon

Other than commercial casinos, there isn’t much you won’t find available for gamblers in Oregon. Native American tribes operate casinos and lotteries and horse racing are widespread. While this may not be one of the biggest gaming states in the country, there’s certainly not a shortage of options for players, either.

On the other hand, the government hasn’t gotten on board with Internet casinos quite yet, which means that only foreign sites are available to residents. But there’s still potential for that to change – especially if neighboring California decides to jump into the online poker game in the next couple of years.

Indian Tribes are Biggest Player in Market

Oregon’s pathway towards a modern gambling industry is very similar to the one followed by many other states. The first form of betting to be allowed was parimutuel racing, which has been available since the 1940s. Today, live racing is still hosted at Portland Meadows, while off-track betting and simulcasts are spread at many other locations here. Bettors located out of state can even place wagers electronically through “hubs” operated in various locations.

A major change took place in the 1970s, when Oregon lawmakers began to allow gambling if it was done for charitable purposes. Initially, only a smattering of “casino night” games were allowed, but in 1976, voters approved a change to the law that legalized bingo and raffles. More recently, Texas Hold’em has been added to the list of approved games, opening the door to charitable poker nights as well.

Another important change that took place around that same time was the authorization of “social gaming.” This law allows counties and cities to pass ordinances that let local businesses and private clubs operate poker games or other gambling tables, provided that the house isn’t making any money from the games themselves. Today, many towns and cities allow such games to take place.

These developments might not seem like they would have a major impact on the state, but they ended up being critical to the development of the gaming industry here. Throw in the approval of the Oregon Lottery in 1984, which was approved by about two-thirds of voters, and most forms of gambling were available somewhere, in some form, by the late 1980s.

That meant that when the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was passed, many tribes in the state not only sought the ability to open resorts, but knew they would have the opportunity to run full casinos on their lands. This was due to a clause in the IGRA that permitted tribes to offer any game they wanted if it was available elsewhere in the state in which their reservation was located.

Still, it took several years before Native American groups began opening facilities. There were questions about whether Oregonians and the tribes themselves had too much opposition to full-scale gambling operations, and many tribes were far from large cities, limiting the potential revenues they could bring in. There was also the potential for battles with government officials: even under IGRA, there would need to be talks with lawmakers, many of whom were assumed to be deeply opposed to the idea of gambling expansion.

Over time, however, the tribes began to reach compacts with the government. Today, there are nine Indian casinos in Oregon, each run by a different tribe or confederation. While some tribes have also looked into the possibility of building closer to the city of Portland, these efforts have so far been stymied by officials.

The other major player in the market is the lottery itself. In addition to local and national drawings, the Oregon Lottery also allows for video poker games and video lottery terminals, with well over 10,000 such games in operation today. This, of course, has also allowed the Native American resorts to offer the same games.

You might also be interested in knowing that Oregon was one of just four states allowed to offer some form of sports betting after the passage of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. Starting in 1989, the state lottery began offering a game in which players could choose the winners of several NFL games (with a point spread) each week – similar to the parlay betting still allowed in Delaware (a state that also has regulated online casinos). However, the legislature discontinued the game after the 2006-2007 NFL season, in part so that the state could play host to games that were part of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

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Online Expansion Finds Little Support

At the moment, there is very little opportunity to place bets online in Oregon. Other than the horse racing “hubs” that take bets online, no other forms of Internet gambling are available and lawmakers have shown little support for the idea. While the Oregon Lottery has suggested that putting some of their games online would help promote their games to a younger market, legislators have generally been against the idea, and there has been no movement to regulate casino gaming on the Internet.

That said, there are still plenty of high-quality online gambling sites in Oregon which is seen as a grey market. All this means is there are no laws from preventing people from playing at online casinos in Oregon, thus many sites are happy to take our business.

California Could Cause Push Towards Regulation

Oregon’s land-based market isn’t likely to see any major changes in the next few years. There are still battles being fought over exactly where Indian casinos can be built, with some tribes trying to get as close to Portland and other cities as possible, while other tribes have protested these moves. And there’s an interesting issue developing over the definition of “casino” – currently, the word isn’t defined in state law – considering how many venues offer video lottery terminals.

But the most interesting area to follow may be Internet gaming. As we mentioned earlier, Oregon hasn’t made any moves that would suggest that they plan to regulate the industry in the near future. However, we could get a major push from our neighbor to the south. California is (along with Pennsylvania) one of two states that could be close to allowing for online poker, if not a complete suite of virtual games, and their population could make such sites very successful. If California starts to make some major revenue from these operations, then there might be a renewed interest in looking at regulations up here, too.

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