Thursday, September 03, 2015

Food for thought from the Oregon Secretary Of State, Jeanne  Atkins...When is a casino not a casino? In Oregon, it’s hard to tell.  A news release today spells out the issue.

Video gambling machines are a major source of income for a number of retailers even though the Oregon Constitution prohibits “casinos.” Trouble is, casinos are not defined in Oregon law, with the result that the prohibition is not currently subject to effective enforcement.

These are among the findings of an audit of the Oregon State Lottery conducted by the Oregon Secretary of State’s Audits Division.

“It’s clear that neither the Constitution nor the Legislature has provided clarification as to what constitutes a casino,” said Secretary of State Jeanne P. Atkins. “Still, the Lottery must examine its own policies and procedures to make sure that it is not licensing illegal casinos.”

Casinos operated by recognized Indian tribes on reservation lands are exempt from the Oregon prohibition on casinos.

Auditors examining a selection of establishments known as “Limited Menu Retailers” found that some are earning more than 50 percent of their income from gambling machines such as video poker, in violation of the income rule established by the Lottery Commission.

The income rule has been revised by the Commission from time to time, in an effort to follow a 1997 Oregon Supreme Court ruling that businesses should not feature gambling as a “dominant purpose” or “dominant use”. Like the word “casino,” these terms have not been defined by the courts or the Oregon Legislature.

At the same time, the Commission has altered its investigatory standards. Lottery inspectors are currently relying on a visual inspection to decide whether a retail establishment “looks” like a casino rather than comparing their sales income and lottery income.

About 230 of the 2,300 video machine operators fall into Lottery’s “Limited Menu Retailers” category, operating 11% of the video gambling machines in Oregon. These establishments generated about 21% of the Lottery’s total net receipts from all machines. Last year they received about $34 million in commissions and generated about $125 million in state revenues. Nine individuals or business entities own nearly half of these Limited Menu Retailers.

The audit also found that some retailers are giving away food and beverages to customers, but reporting them as sales, which results in a bottom line that looks less dependent on gambling revenues than it actually is.

Auditors looked at this category of small restaurants and how Lottery was enforcing the casino prohibition. Most of the businesses reviewed were earning more than 50% of their income from the machines.

Oregon Lottery rules limit the number of gaming machines a retailer may have. The retailer earns a commission for each machine. The average commission for a single machine was $26,111 last year.

Auditors recommend that the Lottery Commission seek a clear and enforceable definition of “casino” by working with the Lottery Commission, the Governor, and the Legislature. They also recommend that Lottery verify gross sales reports that retailers submit. For retailers earning more than 50% of their income from video gambling machines, Lottery should evaluate whether removing a machine would enable the retailer to comply with the Oregon Constitution’s restriction against operating as a “casino.”

This is nearly impossible to do but luckily I've done all the work for you so you too can have fun with the May 19th Special District Election!

As of this afternoon just a little over 16% of the eligible voters have returned a ballot.  Sad, but perfectly understandable,  Special District elections are not exactly exciting to begin with and this one is a real snoozer because 99% of the races have one candidate. In most of those cases it's the incumbent who has been there forever...

Then I got to thinking about it.  Why can't we have some fun with this since we have already paid for it?  Yes, it's true that we could have saved a ton of money by simply appointing whoever put their hand up for these usually thankless jobs but then I noticed that one special district in particular could be the basis for whole new way to actually enjoy an election practically nobody knows, or cares about.. The Port Of Astoria Commission.

What if we play a game where we try to fix the Port?

Why not? We couldn't possibly do worse.

Here's how it works.  Grab your ballot and a black or dark blue pen.

See how many commission positions are up for election and now  write in the names of people you'd like to see running the Port!

I picked mine and I'll even share them with you.

The guys I would like to see in those chairs?

Curt or John Englund..both if that's legal but either would be a good pick

Steve Fick is another guy I'd like to see in one of those seats

Bruce Buckmaster would be perfect..Just write them in!

There are other options as well

Cheri Folk...Once shes back from vacation she might have some spare time.

Willis Van Dusen is an obvious choice!

I could go on and on but now it's your turn to play.

Write in your dream candidates and get that ballot to the county before the polls close tonight!

Have fun!  Maybe we can fix this thing.

Well now they've done it. As long as the thousands of Sea Lions that have been pouring into Astoria were just destroying Port mooring docks it was okay.  In fact a few have suggested the town should welcome the massive influx and turn the whole thing into a tourist attraction. But there is a new development in this story that makes the situation far more like an invasion and far less like something that could join the goonies house as a tourist destination.

The Sea Lions may be taking over the beloved River Front Trail.  Even worse, the lastest incursion threatens something else near to Astorian's hearts and minds. The River Front Trolley, enjoyed by thousands and another source of city pride. Sea Lions are protected by the Federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.  Doing anything that might disturb these wild animals is strictly against the law.  When the 17th street dock was under construction one of the requirements was to have spotters watching the river at all times looking for the Sea Lions. If any were spotted the pile driving operation would have to stop until the animals were no longer present.  It was feared that the pounding and the vibrations would disturb the protected creatures.

Attempts to stop the Sea Lions from impacting endangered salmon near Bonneville, including sending a few to Sea Lion heaven, required lots of paperwork, public hearings and special permits. But then we weren't talking about the Trolley. Now we are. Short runs on the Trolley line during the season may become the rule because to do otherwise would disturb the Sea Lions that make their way to those rail trestles. All that extra weight on the infrastructure will most likely have an impact as well.  As we have learned, anything that impacts the Trolley becomes a major issue and the subject of intense debate usually resulting in the Trolley winning out.  

 

Maybe not this tme.

 

The Port of Astoria took plenty of grief over their efforts to discourage the Sea Lions from piling up on the docks at the East End Mooring Basin.  None of those efforts paid off in the end due to the overwhelming numbers.  I suppose at this point we just cross our fingers and hope this is just a temporary change in the animal's migratory habits but there is plenty of evidence that suggests this may be a more permanent situation than anyone would care to entertain.  The Sea Lions have nearly perfect conditions here with a mild climate, a ready food supply, and no pressure from natural predators. With one exception.  Marine scientists track killer whales and the the pods they live amongst.  One of those pods makes regular swings past the Columbia and it's this particular pod that seems to be successfully breeding.  Orca calves were recently spotted swimming along with the pod.

Maybe Mother Nature will help solve the Sea Lion problem afterall.

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