June 4, 2010 Volume 111 Number 11

Building trades collecting signatures for private casino

Developers of a proposed private casino in east Multnomah County have signed a memorandum of understanding with the Columbia Pacific Building and Construction Trades Council to build the project with union labor.

Lake Oswego financial consultant Bruce Studer and lawyer Matt Rossman met with affiliates of the building trades council May 25 to share their plans for a $250 million-plus casino and entertainment center at the defunct Multnomah Kennel Club in Wood Village east of Portland.

“The big task before us right now is to gather enough signatures by July 2 to get this on the ballot in November,” Studer said.

In order to proceed, the developers must secure two ballot measures. One measure is a constitutional amendment creating an exception to allow for one private casino to operate in Oregon. The second measure details how much will be spent initially to build the casino ($250 million) and where some of the profits will go. The initiative authorizes 25 percent of adjusted gross gaming revenues — estimated at more than $100 million a year — be dedicated to K-12 education and other public services. Studer told union officials that by statute, half of the 25 percent will go to schools and another 30 percent will be shared by every county in the state.

“With the state facing a $560 million shortfall, this sounds like welcome relief,” said John Mohlis, executive secretary-treasurer of the building trades council.

Building trades affiliates have agreed to help gather signatures for the initiatives, and they encourage fellow union members to sign them.

Oregon requires 110,358 valid signatures for a constitutional amendment and 82,769 valid signatures for a change in state law. Backers have set a goal of obtaining 160,000 signatures. The deadline to turn them in is July 2.

The developers have hired Democracy Resources of Portland to collect signatures. Coordinator Josh Balloch said 110 people are currently working in every corner of the state.

“At this point, we are right where we want to be,” Balloch said.

The developers are proposing a “world-class entertainment center” that would, in phases, include a luxury hotel, fine restaurants, a spa, shopping, a movie cinema, live theater venues for local, national and international stars, a bowling alley, and water park.

They say the project will create several hundred construction jobs, more than 3,000 permanent jobs once completed, and 2,300 indirect jobs.

“These will all be local, family-wage jobs,” Mohlis said.

Studer emphasized that the partnership group that he and Rossman have put together are not seeking any public subsidies or tax breaks, and will pay its full share of taxes.

“Our partnership group is committed to building and operating the Resort Casino and Entertainment Center the Oregon way — constructed by union craftspeople using local suppliers, and incorporating state-of-the-art green building techniques,” Rossman said.

If successful at the polls, construction most likely wouldn’t begin until the third or fourth quarter of 2011.

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