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Casino bill will restore control

It's only fair - not to mention democratic - for East County residents to have control over whether a private mega-casino is sited in their community.

Senate Bill 1042, sponsored by Gresham Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson, would assure such control by requiring that local cities hold a public vote before a non-tribal casino could be opened at the former Multnomah Kennel Club in Wood Village.

The bill gained unanimous support Tuesday from the Senate Committee on Education and General Government. And at the suggestion of Fairview officials, it also was amended in a highly significant way. Originally, Senate Bill 1042 would have required a vote only in the city where a private casino would be located - in this case, Wood Village. But now the amended bill would force a vote not just in Wood Village, but also in adjacent cities - Fairview, Troutdale and Gresham.

The committee's positive vote on Senate Bill 1042 raises the odds that the legislation will continue through the Senate and House. And Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who already is on record in opposition to the Wood Village casino, would seem inclined to sign such a bill.

Senate Bill 1042's provisions will be needed only if the casino's backers - Lake Oswego businessmen Matthew Rossman and Bruce Studer - succeed in getting Oregon voters to approve two statewide initiatives they hope to place on the ballot in 2008. But at the committee hearing on Tuesday, it was clear that many people will oppose Rossman and Studer every step of the way.

Tribal representatives testified in favor of the bill, as did Mayor Mike Weatherby of Fairview. The committee chair - Sen. Vicki Walker of Eugene - spoke enthusiastically about the bill and in opposition to opening the door to non-tribal casinos. The other four members of the committee - Sens. Rick Metsger, Jeff Kruse, Frank Morse and Ben Westlund - also supported the bill, which already lists Sen. Rod Monroe, Sen. Gary George and Rep. John Lim as co-sponsors.

It is gratifying to see the legislative process working to preserve local control. Whether people support or oppose the casino plan, it's impossible to argue against holding a vote among those citizens most affected.

Rossman and Studer may have hoped that voters statewide could trump local sentiments. But we believe the Legislature will act now - and again in 2009, if necessary - to ensure that East County residents have a say in their future.