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Casino bill adds area cities

Senate bill now to include vote by surrounding residents

Legislation that would allow residents of neighboring cities to vote on non-tribal casino proposals passed unanimously in a committee vote in the Oregon Senate this week.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson, D-Gresham, has ramifications for a potential mega-casino and entertainment complex in Wood Village.

Under the amended bill, if Oregon voters in 2008 approve two state initiatives calling for a private casino at the former Multnomah Kennel Club, residents of Gresham, Fairview and Troutdale would be able to weigh in on the issue along with Wood Village.

Monnes Anderson's original bill called for a vote only in the city where a casino would be located. But Fairview Mayor Mike Weatherby, in testimony before the Education and General Government Committee on Tuesday, April 24, said that measure didn't go far enough.

He and other Fairview officials worked with Monnes Anderson's staff to craft an amendment that mandates neighboring cities be able to vote when a non-tribal casino is proposed in their region.

'Cities that are adjacent to any city that has a proposed private casino within their boundaries can also be significantly impacted,' Weatherby told the committee in prepared remarks.

The committee voted 5-0 to pass the amended legislation, which was also backed by representatives from the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, onto the Senate floor. Monnes Anderson said a Senate vote could happen next week. If passed, the bill would then move to the state House.

Investment advisor Bruce Studer and lawyer Matt Rossman, who are leading the initiative effort, have yet to comment on Monnes Anderson's measure. Roger Gray, a political consultant for the Lake Oswego pair, said casino proponents did not attend Tuesday's hearing.

'We're still taking a look at it,' he said. 'We'll figure out what happened (Tuesday), and that's where we are.'

Wood Village Mayor David Fuller criticized Weatherby and Monnes Anderson for not communicating with him or other Wood Village councilors. He said he was 'opposed to one city trying to control another city.'

'I guess Mike wants to take over the world,' Fuller said angrily.

For Weatherby to 'sneakily go off without even advising us' was underhanded, Fuller said.

He would like to cooperate with Fairview and the other cities, and said the City Council will not support a casino 'unless it's in the best interest of our city.'

Fuller said he has reserved judgment about the proposal until traffic and other impacts can be studied. He noted that the plan would bring 'a lot of dollars and thousands of jobs' to East County.

Gresham Mayor Shane T. Bemis said it is a good idea to have neighboring cities weigh in on such large-scale developments.

'I think it's beneficial to have jurisdictions, especially when they're a 9-iron away from a future mega-entertainment center, to have input into the process,' Bemis said.

Troutdale Mayor Paul Thalhofer said he would defer to his City Council to make a decision about whether adjacent cities should vote on nearby casinos.

He said he is personally opposed to the Wood Village casino. A huge gambling center would be bad for East County, Thalhofer said, and would give Rossman and Studer a monopoly on Oregon's sole non-tribal casino.

The businessmen still need to collect thousands of signatures to get the initiatives on the November 2008 ballot. They envision a nearly $500 million entertainment mecca with a casino, high-end hotel, live music venue, restaurants and retail, bowling alley, spa and a water park.

Having the Education and General Government Committee consider the bill boosted its chances, Monnes Anderson said. Committee Chairwoman Vicki Walker, D-Eugene, is adamantly opposed to allowing gaming operations on non-tribal land.

At Tuesday's hearing Walker said if people desire such casinos, they can 'go to Vegas.'