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Open doors wide for video poker

MY VIEW • Pity the bar when profits plummet, but consider the alternatives

Thank goodness the Oregon Lottery Commission didn't reduce the profits that Oregon bars and taverns make from video poker any more than 3 percent, lowering it from an average take of 32 percent to 29 percent.

Until I read the pleas of one of Oregon's most powerful lobbyists Ñ the Oregon Restaurant Association Ñ I had no idea that so many bars and taverns relied on gambling commissions to survive. Golly, I thought they made profits by, you know, selling food and beverages.

I can see why bars and taverns warned that they would have to cut hours, reduce employee pay or drop video poker games if their gambling profits were cut. It must not be possible for them to keep the doors open when they're reliant solely on profits from food and beverage sales. Looking back, I'm amazed that any bars or taverns were able to stay open in Oregon before video poker came along in 1992.

Unfortunately, Oregon probably will lose some bars or taverns because of this 3 percent reduction. That's going to hurt, because it means fewer places where low-income Oregonians can go both to drink alcohol and gamble.

To maintain the state's lottery revenues, we're going to have to move the video poker machines in closed bars and taverns to other locations.

How about senior centers? I bet they'd settle for a 15 percent commission, and video poker players could hang around to play some pinochle with the patrons.

How about libraries? I bet they'd settle for a 10 percent commission, and video poker players could pick up some reading materials on gambling addiction while there.

How about public schools? Given the condition of school funding in Oregon, I bet they'd settle for a 5 percent commission. Of course, that may not be the best message to send to kids É promoting gambling and all. But schools already are selling kids out by bringing soda-pop companies into schools for a cut of the profits. So what's one more bad little thing for kids if it's generating cash for the schools?

Anyway, I hate to see Oregon lose any bars or taverns because of lost gambling profits. But I'm sure that we can find other places to fill the void, and that they'll be willing to accept a dramatically lower cut of the profits.

Todd Jones works in state government. He holds degrees in teaching from Lewis & Clark College and in history from Willamette University. He volunteers regularly in his daughter's first-grade classroom in West Linn.