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Oregon tribes backing house bills to block Dutch Bros Founder Travis Boersma’s The Flying Lark

Nearly all of Oregon’s native tribes are now backing two bills filed in the Oregon House on Tuesday. House Bills 4046 and 4047 were filed on Tuesday at the request of the House Interim Rules Committee. The filings follow the recent attention and court filings involving The Flying Lark’s pending application for Historic Horse Racing (HHR) machines for it’s restaurant and entertainment venue. The venue is intended to supplement Grants Pass Downs, which along with The Flying Lark is owned by Dutch Bros Co-founder Travis Boersma through his company TMB Racing, LLC.

TMB Racing recently filing a court action after the Oregon Racing Commission started to stall and delay the review of it’s application, alleging improprieties related to political pressure. Grants Pass Downs’ Director of Racing Randy Evers told NW Horse Report weeks ago that HHR machines are legal and were previously in operation at the former Portland Meadows which shuttered it’s doors in 2019.

The Flying Lark has already doubled-down saying that should the OHC fail to approve their application as was originally expected late last year, over 200 employees in the Grant’s Pass area would have to be laid off. Many of those workers have started to express their own concerns to the impact of loosing what they feel are decent paying jobs in a park of Oregon summering under the pandemic and current economic conditions.

A statement from Boersma provided to NW Horse Report expressed he was committed to providing jobs local community and saving horse racing in Oregon.

Horse racing is something also personal and goes way back for Boersma and his family. His brother Dane who co-founded Dutch Bros with him, passed away from Lou Gherig’s Disease in 2009. A snippet from Dane Boersma’s obituary said, “The simple pleasures in life made a huge difference to Dane. A trip to the horse track always provided a great thrill,”.

Boersma has been a big supporter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association through his company’s annual fundraiser. Drink One for Dane began after Dutch Bros co-founder, Dane Boersma, was diagnosed with Lou Gherig’s. This last year, Dutch Bros raised a record breaking 1.9 million, which accounts for about one-fifth of the total raised in 15 years. This brought the grand total donated to MDA over the last 15 years to $10 million.

In 2013, Oregon passed a law that allowed for the pari-mutuel wagering. The tribes have claimed that the new interation of machines are different from those at the Portland Meadows and essentially are no different from slot machines.

House Bill 4046 would establish a special joint committee for state gambling. According to the bill, members would review gambling in the statewide along with the impact of technology. The committee will also be tasked with, “evaluate the effectiveness of the current regulatory systems that govern state-sanctioned gambling.” HB 4046 would also prohibit approval of new Oregon State Lottery Games, and licenses from the Oregon Racing Commission until January 2nd, 2023, and would declare it an emergency if its enrolled.

House Bill 4047 would, “imposes certain requirements on devices for wagering on historical animal racing.” It would require that HHR machines to show the final eight seconds of the race after the bet is placed. The video of the race would be required to cover at least 70% of the screen.

“The display may not use casino graphics, themes or titles, including depictions of playing cards, dice, craps, roulette, lotto, bingo, or traditional slot machine symbols.” The requirement alone would ultimately prevent the Flying Lark from receiving the HHR machines, which appear to look like regular casino style machines.

“We’re simply asking the legislature to pause and examine and study as it has done periodically,” said Anthony Broadman, attorney with the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians said prior to the filings. “Gaming technology has advanced rapidly.  We are seeing it with the [Flying Lark’s] attempted expansion of private gambling within the state.”

There have yet to be any legislators to sign on to the bill. HB 4046 would also require the special committee provide an opportunity for public comment, including people in affected communities, law enforcement, and horse industry representatives.

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