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Portland-area casino plans unveiled

FRIDAY, AUG. 24, 2012

Jeff Parr, co-chief executive of Clairvest Group Inc., unveils a new casino complex his group wants to build in Wood Village, Ore., on Thursday. It would be Oregon’s first nontribal casino. (Associated Press)
Jeff Parr, co-chief executive of Clairvest Group Inc., unveils a new casino complex his group wants to build in Wood Village, Ore., on Thursday. It would be Oregon’s first nontribal casino. (Associated Press)

WOOD VILLAGE, Ore. – Developers who want to build Oregon’s first nontribal casino unveiled more details about their plans on Thursday, downplaying the casino and saying it’s just one part of a larger entertainment destination.

Officials with two Canadian companies said they want to turn a shuttered dog track in Wood Village, east of Portland, into a complex with a casino, hotel, movie theater and pool. They hope voters will approve the plan in November, two years after a similar proposal was overwhelmingly rejected at the ballot box.

The developers are taking a more aggressive approach this year, releasing more detail about their plans than they did in their previous attempt, which was supported by 32 percent of voters in 2010.

Casino opponents say the developers are trying to distract voters from their efforts to profit from gambling.

The casino issue will appear on the ballot as Measures 82 and 83. Developers are calling the $300 million project “The Grange,” using an old term for a large community gathering place.

“We truly want this development and destination to be an integral part of the community of Wood Village,” said Jeff Parr, co-chief executive of Clairvest Group Inc., a Toronto-based investment firm with a number of casino holdings.

Current plans call for a 125-room, four-star hotel, a water slide, bowling alley, concert hall and theater. A 130,000-square-foot casino would have 2,000 slot machines and 60 card tables. Developers say they’ll incorporate local foods and drinks as much as possible, and they plan to reuse the wooden beams from the 1950s-era Grandstand of the Multnomah Kennel Club, which would be torn down.

The proposal has seen vigorous opposition from Native American tribes that operate nine casinos on reservations. The tribes worry that a casino in the heart of metropolitan Portland would grab the lion’s share of gambling dollars in Oregon. The nearest casino, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde’s Spirit Mountain, is 40 miles southwest of Portland.

“Getting voters excited about one possible plan is simply a ploy to distract voters from what’s really happening, which is a foreign company sees a chance to make huge profit off of Oregonians and take the money out of the state,” said Cynara Lilly, a spokeswoman for the campaign opposing the measure.

Critics have also said a metro-area casino would increase crime, traffic and gambling problems.

Measure 82 calls for broadly authorizing private casinos in Oregon, and Measure 83 asks specifically if one should be permitted at the former dog track, which was known as the Multnomah Kennel Club. The public won’t be voting on specific development plans and the investors would be free to modify them.

Within hours of announcing their plans, developers of The Grange hit a potential roadblock when the leaders of the National Grange, a group of local fraternal organizations, said they’ve trademarked the word “Grange.” It wasn’t immediately clear what the trademark dispute might mean for the casino’s name, but officials on both sides said they’re willing to talk about it.

“It’s unfortunate that this Canadian company possibly didn’t do their due diligence and check the federal websites that have listings of all the trademarks,” said Ed Luttrell, the president of the National Grange, who lives outside Sandy, Ore. “But the thing is, I believe strongly if reasonable people sit down they can find solutions.”

Anna Richter-Taylor, a spokeswoman for the developers, said: “We are in discussions with them now and look forward to working with them.”


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