Heavily Modified Oregon Greyhound Racing Bill Heads To Governor

Written By Derek Helling on March 9, 2022
After Heavy Makeover The Oregon Greyhound Racing Bill Heads To Governor

An Oregon greyhound racing bill that would have made betting on the races in the state illegal has passed through both chambers of the state legislature but not without some heavy modifications. In terms of criminal penalties for betting on dog racing, the bill has lost most of its teeth.

Amendments to the bill have effectively muzzled the provisions in the original text to criminalize the specific type of gambling activity. If Gov. Kate Brown signs it, though, there is a way that cities in the state can put it on a leash.

Oregon greyhound racing bill gets major makeover

When OR Senate President Peter Courtney pre-filed SB 1504, it would have made betting on greyhound races a Class A misdemeanor in the state. Anyone convicted of facilitating that gambling would have been guilty of a Class C felony.

Late last month, a joint committee added several amendments. The amendments essentially replaced most of the original bill. The version now headed to Gov. Brown’s desk represents a complete turnaround on the legality of betting on greyhound races.

On Tuesday evening, the OR House of Representatives approved the bill 38-20. It had already cleared the Oregon Senate on March 2 by a unanimous vote of the members present.

The bill’s approved text allows licensees in the state to take bets on greyhound races unless the municipality of the bettor’s principal residence bans such activity. It also requires the Oregon Racing Commission to file an annual report on betting on the races with the legislature.

Although technically legal, there is no active dog racing in Oregon. Originally, Courtney’s bill wouldn’t have discriminated by location of the race. Betting on a greyhound race that was taking place in Alabama would have been just as illegal as betting on a race in Oregon.

Now, the legality of such wagers could be left up to each township in the state. It’s unclear whether any municipalities will act on that provision should the bill become law. The motivation behind the wholesale changes in the bill also isn’t certain.

Why did the legislature remove the criminalization language from the bill?

One possible indicator is evident in a bill summary for OR Senate members. The Oregon Racing Commission estimated the state would lose $7 million in revenue from six of the nine companies currently offering the action leaving the state.

It’s fair to question whether that amount is sufficient to motivate such drastic amendments, though. The legislature’s 2021-23 budget calls for total expenditures of over $112.7 billion. The state expects to receive $5.6 million over that same time frame just from interest on lottery funds.

So if it isn’t a budgetary concern for the state, then why the de-escalation of the criminalization of betting on greyhound races? The answer could lie in the second part of the note in the bill summary.

The prevailing concern might have been gambling businesses pulling out of the state. Testimony in opposition to the bill from the Oregon Quarter Horse Racing Association supports that theory.

In the testimony, Richard Angstrom writes that those “businesses would be forced to move out of Oregon in order to continue operations.” He goes on to state that it would further lead to the elimination of horse racing in the state as well.

Thus, while the loss of greyhound race betting might be immaterial to the state’s budget, the horse racing industry in Oregon feels it’s vital to its survival. Should Brown sign the bill, municipal leaders in the state could make their bite worse than the state’s bark on the issue.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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