Petition drive to allow first Oregon non-tribal casino falls short; developers vow challenge

By Tim Fought, AP
Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Measure for 1st Ore. non-tribal casino falls short

PORTLAND, Ore. — Sponsors of a proposed constitutional amendment to allow Oregon’s first non-tribal casino turned in far more signatures than they needed, but officials say too few were valid and the measure won’t get a statewide vote.

Secretary of State Kate Brown said Tuesday the sponsors were about 6,000 valid signatures shy of the 110,000 required for a spot on the November ballot.

One of the sponsors, lawyer Matthew Rossman, said Brown’s decision would be challenged, probably in court.

Rossman and his Lake Oswego neighbor Bruce Studer want to put the state’s first private casino at a former greyhound track in the east Portland suburb Wood Village.

Indian tribes oppose the proposal, fearing it will divert Portland customers from their casinos farther from the metropolitan area.

The sponsors started their drive later than most but turned in more than 170,000 signatures. The secretary of state’s office found only about 61 percent valid, an unusually low percentage.

“It’s not the lowest we’ve ever seen,” said Brown spokesman Don Hamilton. “We’ve seen some in the high 50s.”

Under the law, the percentage of signatures found valid is established by officials verifying a random sample.

“There has been a mistake,” Rossman said, although he couldn’t say precisely what the mistake was. “Our understanding is that we turned in a significant number of signatures. … This is a new validity process that needs to be challenged if these are the results.”

The casino campaign was backed by Clairvest Group, a Toronto investment company whose latest annual report describes holdings in such fields as waste management, medical supplies, oil field services, financial services and auto parts, as well as casinos.

According to filings in the secretary of state’s office as of Tuesday, Clairvest had contributed about $1.5 million in cash or services to two committees promoting the casino.

Rossman and Studer also submitted a companion initiative to set up the casino’s licensing under the state’s lottery commission and to parcel out a quarter of the proceeds to schools and the government.

That measure qualified for the ballot, Brown said. Since it changed the law, not the constitution, it required fewer valid signatures.

If Brown’s findings on the constitutional amendment hold, that could lead to an odd vote in November — on a law to implement a casino that the constitution forbids.

Hamilton said the sponsors would have to go to court to get the statutory change taken off the ballot. Rossman wouldn’t say what he and Studer might do.

The secretary of state’s office has until Sunday to finish work on initiatives for this year’s November election, so Brown’s decisions could change in the light of legal challenges or other changes.

will not be displayed