Casino backers sue to get measure on Ore. ballot

Casino backers sue to get measure on Ore. ballot
Backers of the first non-tribal casino in Oregon want to open it at this former greyhound track in Wood Village but the state constitution forbids it.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The backers of what would be the first non-tribal casino in Oregon went to court Wednesday hoping to get a statewide vote on their project.

Matt Rossman and Bruce Studer want to put a casino in a former greyhound track in the Portland suburb Wood Village, but the state constitution would forbid it.

They proposed a constitutional amendment to allow just one private casino, but Secretary of State Kate Brown said Tuesday their petitions didn't have enough valid signatures for a vote in November.

In a statement, Rossman and Studer said they're seeking a look at Brown's work: "the rejected signatures and access to the signatures on file so we can evaluate whether the Secretary made the mistakes we're sure she made."

Under Oregon law, an initiative petition is subject to a statistical sampling process that involves checking some of the signatures on initiative petitions against the signatures on voter registration cards. Eventually, the process establishes a validity rate that's applied to all the petitions the secretary of state accepts for consideration.

"We're confident we used a process that was fair and complied with the law," said Brown spokesman Don Hamilton.

He also said the signatures and signature sheets are public records.

The state has nine tribal casinos, none so close to the Portland market as Wood Village, and tribes opposed Rossman and Studer's proposal.

Sunday is the deadline for getting measures on the November ballot, and Brown said Wednesday in a statement that four citizen measures and three generated by the Legislature have been approved.

One is a companion measure for the Wood Village casino project that sets up its licensing and spells out how some of its proceeds would go toward schools and local governments.

The measure would have little effect, though, unless the constitutional prohibition is lifted.

On Wednesday, Brown's office said it had cleared a constitutional amendment to continue allocating 15 percent of state lottery proceeds for parks and for fish and wildlife habitat.

In 1998, Oregon voters approved the allocation. The measure proposed this year would make it permanent.

The proposed constitutional amendment also would require better auditing and would allow funds to be spent on projects for "native fish and wildlife," instead of just salmonid species, said Jessica Moskovitz, communications director for Oregonians for Water, Parks and Wildlife.

The money from the allocation has gone for reducing the backlog of repairs at state parks and buying and developing new parkland, part of Gov. Ted Kulongoski's new-park-a-year campaign, said Chris Havel, a spokesman for the Parks and Recreation Department.

Moskovitz said the habitat money has largely gone to local watershed boards that leverage private and federal dollars for such projects as fencing streams against livestock that could cause streamside erosion or restoring the courses of streams to make them hospitable for fish.

Two more measures are on the ballot by virtue of petitions:

  • One from ballot measure activist Kevin Mannix would impose a mandatory 25-year prison sentence for repeat rapists and other serious sex offenders, and 90 days in jail for people with a third conviction in 10 years for driving under the influence.


  • Another from medical marijuana advocates would set up a pot dispensary system for patients.

The measures the Legislature put on the ballot would expand the availability of home loans for veterans, set up annual sessions of the Legislature and authorize lowest-cost borrowing for the state's real and personal property projects.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.