End Oregon's addiction to lottery revenue (OPINION)
The Oregon Lottery logo.
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on October 20, 2015
Follow on Twitter
on October 20, 2015
By Kent Craford
It always was an odd place for a school bus stop. A cigar store parking lot. Perhaps better than the alternatives down the street — Hooters or the liquor store. But soon central Hayden Island's school bus stop will get a lot more interesting. The cigar store is gone. It's being replaced by "Green Oasis." Yep, our school bus stop will be outside a recreational marijuana dispensary.
Here's where you'll probably expect a rant about how the heck "they" — Portland Public Schools, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, etc. — could possibly allow a recreational pot shop to open 50 feet from an elementary school bus stop.
I'm not that concerned about the hippies, yuppies, retirees (including several of my neighbors), slackers and otherwise normal people likely to patronize Green Oasis. Heck, I might even stop in for a look-see myself.
What does concern me is the real threat to my children's safety, and general livability on Hayden Island: the casino across the street. The hive of slot machine dens known as "Lottery Row" — 11 video gambling "delis" clustered in one spot, all brought to you by the state of Oregon, kids. Hayden Island's Lottery Row is the final manifestation of Oregon's failed experiment with gambling. What started out so innocently with scratch-off tickets has mutated into a self-perpetuating, billion-dollar gambling industry with more incentive to keep its clients hooked than the Medellin Cartel.
And good luck wresting the lottery needle away from the junkies in Salem. No, I'm not just talking about the majority party. This is a bipartisan addiction. And we're so hooked that even a billion dollars in annual revenue isn't enough. The legislature routinely mortgages gambling proceeds by taking on more debt in the form of lottery-backed bonds. Why? So they can dole out ever more pork across the state. These lottery "investments," along with generous political contributions from gambling retailers, keep the surgical tubing tight around the arm of otherwise small-government-advocating Republican legislators, and big-spending-liberal Democrats alike.
Where does all the money go? Well, a quick visit to www.oregonlottery.com presents a vision of wholesomeness: lighthouses, waterfalls, even school kids! Look where your gambling losses go, Oregonians! "It Does Great Things!", right? Wrong.
My kids have grown up witnessing the real dividends of Oregon Lottery slot machines and the clientele they prey on. They've seen them stagger down the sidewalk. Police cars all the time. They've heard the shouting. They've smelled the vomit. The Oregon Lottery is a parasite on vulnerable Oregonians and a social cancer on our neighborhood. I'll say one thing:
My kids are more street-smart for it.
Without Oregon Lottery slot machines, we'll still have waterfalls. What we won't have is a school bus stop outside a state-sponsored gambling casino. We'd just have a pot dispensary. I can live with that.
If ever there were a time for common sense gambling reforms in Oregon, it's now. Tax revenue is up; we can afford to curb our gambling addiction. Close the absurd loophole that lets mini-casinos masquerade as "restaurants." Limit the concentration of gambling retailers in a given location. And restrict their proximity to schools — and school bus stops. The political opportunity exists. Hayden Island's state representative, Tina Kotek, is the speaker of the House, for Pete's sake. Will she and her colleagues have the courage to wean themselves from their gambling habit next session and stand up to the powerful pushers who profit from it? I hope so.
I'll leave the fretting over recreational marijuana to others. And once the smoke clears, it's time for Oregon legislators to rein in the greater evil, Oregon's self-induced cancer — state-sponsored gambling run amok.
Kent Craford lives on Hayden Island. You can find out more about lottery row by visiting www.itdoesbadthings.org.