Gambling Takes a Recess

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), September 23, 2009 | Go to article overview
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Gambling Takes a Recess

Byline: The Register-Guard

The gambling business in Oregon has become more complicated in the past year.

The main problem, in the eyes of the state and its private partners (taverns, restaurants, etc.) is that revenue has fallen. No one knows how much of the drop is due to the recession and how much is due to a statewide indoor smoking ban that went into effect in January, but both appear to be involved.

The trouble is not unique to Oregon, although Oregon is one of the biggest losers. The Rockefeller Institute of Government in New York released a report this week showing that state and local gambling tax revenues declined 2.8 percent from fiscal 2008 to fiscal 2009. Oregon had one of the biggest drops at 15.2 percent. This is the first time most states have seen their take shrink.

Supporters have long argued that gambling is "recession proof." It appears now that many gamblers react to economic bad times the same as customers of other businesses, by reducing spending.

Nonetheless, states are scrambling to revive their gambling revenues without just depending on a general economic recovery. New Jersey, for example, has repealed a smoking ban in casinos. In Ohio, Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat and former Methodist minister, reversed his opposition to gambling and issued a directive allowing video slots at the state's seven racetracks. Even though the Legislature approved the move, it faces legal obstacles and may be overtaken by a November ballot measure that would authorize four full-fledged casinos, one each in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo.

The New Jersey action is relevant to Oregon, but not because Oregon is considering a similar retraction of its smoking ban.

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