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Casinos delay is good news

Two Lake Oswego businessmen confirmed recently something that has been obvious to political observers for several weeks now: They will not proceed with an initiative drive this year to establish Oregon's first non-tribal casino at the old Multnomah Kennel Club in Wood Village.

The decision by Matthew Rossman and Bruce Studer to once again delay their plans is a welcome one. Oregon already is saturated with gambling opportunities and there is little to be gained - and a lot to be lost - by continuing to expand gambling in this state.

Rossman and Studer had declined to say why they hadn't begun collecting signatures for two ballot proposals - one that would have amended the Oregon Constitution to allow a single non-tribal casino, and another that would have sited a proposed Las Vegas-style casino in Wood Village. This is the second election cycle that Rossman and Studer have missed since they announced their bold plans in 2005, and the explanation they gave for their inertia wasn't fully convincing.

The business partners said this year's delay is due to their desire to see what happens with two proposed tribal casinos - in Cascade Locks and La Center, Wash. - that are being reviewed by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. We're certain that the tribal casinos will influence any future campaigns by Rossman and Studer, but the duo's success also will be determined by other variables - including their ability to attract investors, the overall health of the economy and the current state of public opinion toward gambling.

No matter what prompted Rossman and Studer to postpone, there are multiple reasons for Oregonians to resist strongly any proposal to make gambling more enticing than it already is. Reliance on gambling for state revenues and for development of tribal communities comes with social costs that often outweigh the economic benefits.

Rather than expand gambling, as Rossman, Studer and others have proposed, Oregon should begin to scale back. Yes, the state has balanced its budget and aided certain essential services by growing its Lottery revenues, but it has done so at the expense of people who make poor economic choices and who, in some cases, pay an enormous personal price.