Casino proponents launch ad; citizen panel says reject Measure 82

Casino proponents launch ad; citizen panel says reject Measure 82
Jeff Parr, co-CEO of Clairvest Group, Inc., unveils a new casino complex his group wants to build in Wood Village, Ore., Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. Developers who want to build Oregon's first non-tribal casino hope to convince voters to approve the gaming center in November.(AP Photo/Don Ryan)

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - Supporters of a ballot measure that would create Oregon's first nontribal casino have launched their first television ad — and it contains no mention of a ballot measure or of gambling.

Instead, the ad pitches new jobs and entertainment. It's the first television ad to go on air for any of the nine measures on the November ballot, and it comes unusually early. Ballot measure campaigns don't typically start advertising until well after Labor Day.

The ad, which began airing Thursday night, describes a project known as "The Grange" and promises "2,000 jobs with health care...a lively new destination...millions in new revenue for our schools every year." It doesn't mention the casino that would anchor the development or the two ballot measures that would allow it to be built. A small disclaimer notes the ad was paid for by the campaign supporting Measures 82 and 83.

In rolling out their plans, the developers have tried to keep the focus on their construction plans and the economic benefits they say it would bring, saying discussion of the ballot measure and the merits of a casino can come later.

The ad is meant "to introduce the project to Oregonians, and its benefits, which has not been done before," said Anna Richter Taylor, a spokeswoman for the developers.

On Friday, a majority of 24 citizens who spent a week studying Measure 82 and hearing arguments on both sides recommended 17-7 that voters reject it. The findings of the state-sanctioned panel will be published in the official voters' pamphlet.

The Oregon Constitution currently allows casinos only on Indian reservations. Measure 82 would authorize private casinos, with a few restrictions, if approved in a statewide vote and by voters in the city where the casino would be build. Measure 83 would authorize a casino at the former dog track.

Clairvest Group Inc., a Canadian investment firm, and its partners has proposed building a 125-room, four-star hotel, a water slide, bowling alley, concert hall and theater in Wood Village, east of Portland. A 130,000-square-foot casino would have 2,000 slot machines and 100 card tables. Developers say they'll incorporate local foods and drinks as much as possible, and they plan to re-use the wooden beams from the 1950s-era grandstand of the Multnomah Kennel Club, which would be torn down.

Clairvest is a private-equity company based in Toronto with a number of casino holdings in the United States, Canada and Chile. The project also involves Great Canadian Gaming Corporation of Richmond, British Columbia, which owns 13 casinos and racetracks in the U.S. and Canada.

Critics of the project say a metro-area casino would increase crime, traffic and gambling problems while grabbing market share from Indian casinos that rely on gambling money to pay for social services.

Aside from the casino measures, Oregon voters will be asked to decide issues including a repeal of the estate tax, legalization of marijuana and the elimination of corporate tax rebates. Other measures would ban real estate transfer taxes and gillnet fishing on the Columbia River.

Proponents of those measures all said they haven't begun airing television ads.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.