Oregon Lawmakers to Consider Major Gambling Expansion

  • Legislative leaders agreed to create a new committee to consider gambling expansion
  • Tribal leaders have been calling for such a review in recent years
  • The Oregon Lottery is currently the state’s second-biggest source of revenue
  • The state’s nine gaming tribes also rely heavily on gambling revenue to fund vital services
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Oregon lawmakers are creating a new committee to consider the possibility of significant gambling expansion. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Potential changes on the way

Lawmakers in Oregon have finally agreed to take a look at gambling expansion after extensive calls to do so from numerous groups, including local tribes. Legislative leaders announced on Friday that they will be creating an eight-person joint committee to review the state’s gambling framework. 

Tribal leaders first requested such a review last year

Tribal leaders first requested such a review last year and pressed the matter once again earlier in 2022. House Speaker Dan Rayfield said that the legal gambling space in the US has changed significantly in recent years and noted that Americans spent more on gambling in 2021 than in any other year.

Rayfield wants the new committee to consider the impacts of expanding current gambling laws on the likes of “sovereign Tribal governments and Oregonians struggling with addiction.” Representative John Lively and Senator Sara Gelser will co-chair the new committee.

A big deal in Oregon

The Oregon Lottery is already a major source of revenue for the state, second only behind tax income as Oregon’s biggest revenue source. The Oregon Lottery has been pushing for online gambling expansion, including allowing people to place wagers on Oregon college sports teams. Private gambling interests are also eager to have operations in the region.

Online sports betting is currently an option in Oregon, with the Oregon Lottery operating the state’s sole online sportsbook.

Calls for change have met resistance. Governor Kate Brown instructed the Oregon Lottery last year to pause any discussions about gambling expansion. There was also an Oregon Department of Justice ruling in February that prevented the installation of 225 betting terminals at the track in Grants Pass. The installation would have allegedly been in violation of the state’s constitutional prohibition on non-reservation casinos. 

An important source of revenue for tribes

The nine tribes in Oregon also rely significantly on casino revenue in order to fund vital services in their communities and have been concerned by pushes from commercial gambling operators that want to introduce new forms of gambling to their existing operations. Some of the tribes have already welcomed the formation of the new committee. The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians welcomed this latest development, hoping that it can bring “an end to the partisan conflicts and deliver what Oregonians expect from their government.”

no major review of gambling legislation in Oregon since 1996

There has been no major review of gambling legislation in Oregon since 1996, though industry has changed massively both globally and nationally since then. Senate President Peter Courtney believes that a review is long overdue. He stated that the new committee has a big job on its hands to figure out what would work and what doesn’t work, emphasizing the sizeable impact that gambling already has on the state.