Oregon Committee Wants Ongoing Oversight Role On Gambling

December 22, 2022
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A special legislative committee on gambling regulation is seeking a more permanent role in steering gaming policy in Oregon and has recommended a pause in any expansion of lottery games or sports betting pending further study.

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A special legislative committee on gambling regulation is seeking a more permanent role in steering gaming policy in Oregon and has recommended a pause in any expansion of lottery games or sports betting pending further study.

After being established by the state legislature earlier this year, the Joint Interim Committee on Gambling Regulation submitted a report and letter this month to Oregon House Speaker Dan Rayfield and Senate President Peter Courtney with some provisional recommendations.

The two legislative leaders agreed to establish the committee in April, partly in response to a series of study bills proposed by lawmakers on behalf of Oregon Indian tribes.

The eight-member gambling committee held a series a six public meetings from June to December, taking testimony from tribal representatives, problem gambling advocates and state lottery and racing commission officials, among others.

The committee’s letter to the Speaker and Senate President concluded that gambling policy was a complex area, with the special committee having just “scratched the surface” during the course of its work.

As a result, the letter called for the presiding officers of the House and Senate to establish a permanent joint committee on gambling regulation that should continue to meet in 2023 to study the industry, and “consider any policy proposals that do come forward related to gambling, including the Oregon Lottery, sports betting, racing, poker and problem gambling treatment and prevention.”

Oregon’s legal gambling market currently includes ten tribal casinos on Indian lands plus an expansive state lottery that operates more than 11,000 video lottery terminals in bars and other venues, in addition to traditional lottery games. The Oregon Lottery also has a contract with DraftKings to exclusively operate mobile sports betting on its behalf.

Historical horseracing machines are authorized at Oregon racing facilities, while the state is one of the principal licensing hubs in the U.S. for online advance deposit wagering on horse races.

Potential gambling expansion options highlighted by the committee include the licensing of additional mobile sports betting platforms, as well as the offering of interactive lottery games by the state lottery. Legislation has also been considered during the past several sessions to permit wagering on college sports events, which is not presently allowed.

In its letter, however, the joint committee said that with the exception of additional funding for treatment services, “it may be wise to put a ‘pause’ on any expansion of non-tribal gambling in Oregon or implementation of new policies until the Legislature is able to complete a comprehensive study.”

“Although not required by statute, we believe it is essential that any future consideration of non-tribal gaming expansion includes exhaustive examination of the potential impacts on tribal economies and services as well as to the impact on addiction and problem gambling,” lawmakers added.

A central theme of the committee’s final meeting on December 7 was the need to draw a bright line between the policies applicable to tribal and commercial or state-run gambling in Oregon. The committee’s draft letter was ultimately edited to clarify that any pause in expansion should apply exclusively to non-tribal gaming, not gambling in general.

A permanent joint committee on gambling regulation would be able to take more definitive positions and oversee a “resetting of these lines” between tribal and other forms of gambling, said Representative John Lively, the interim committee’s co-chair.

“We may not be ready in 2023 to do a whole lot of changes necessarily, but there’s some clarification [needed],” Lively said.

Lively also highlighted the committee’s conclusion that lawmakers would be able to set formal limits on the Oregon Lottery’s operations. Several bills to prevent the lottery from launching new offerings have been introduced in the state legislature in recent years.

“The legislature does have a lot more authority than most of us thought we did in dealing with the lottery,” Lively said. “From my perspective, that’s one of the areas we want to look at because there’s growing concerns about where that may go.”

Among other recommendations by the committee were for the legislature to explore “whether current policies are sufficient to regulate non-tribal gaming in Oregon given advances in technology” and to closely examine an upcoming state audit of the Oregon Racing Commission.

Committee assignments for 2023 are set to be decided once the Oregon legislature reconvenes for the 2023 session, running January 17 through June 23.

A spokesperson for the Oregon Lottery told VIXIO GamblingCompliance: “Gambling in Oregon is a complex policy area, and we appreciate the committee digging in to gain a more holistic view.

“We stand ready to implement any policy choices made by the Oregon Legislature or our incoming governor. Meanwhile, we continue to focus on meeting our revenue obligations, while supporting the responsible play of our games.”

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