Oregon casino plans unveiled ahead of vote

Firm wants to open nontribal venue; voters killed similar plan in '10

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WOOD VILLAGE, Ore. -- Developers who want to build Oregon's first nontribal casino unveiled more details about their plans Thursday, downplaying the casino, saying it's just one part of a larger entertainment destination.

Officials with two Canadian companies said that they want to turn a shuttered dog track in Wood Village, east of Portland, into a complex with a casino, hotel, movie theater and pool. They say they hope voters will approve the plan in November, two years after a similar proposal was overwhelmingly rejected by voters.

The developers are taking a more aggressive approach this year, releasing more detail about their plans than they did in their previous attempt, which was supported by just 32 percent of voters in 2010.

Casino opponents say the developers are trying to distract voters from their efforts to profit from gambling.

The casino issue will appear on the ballot as Measures 82 and 83. Developers are calling the $300 million project The Grange, using an old term for a large community gathering place.

"We truly want this development and destination to be an integral part of the community of Wood Village," said Jeff Parr, co-chief executive of Clairvest Group Inc., a Toronto-based investment firm with a number of casino holdings.

The proposal has seen vigorous opposition from Indian tribes that operate nine casinos on reservations. The tribes say they worry that a casino in the heart of metropolitan Portland would grab the lion's share of gambling dollars in Oregon. The nearest casino, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde's Spirit Mountain, is 40 miles southwest of Portland.

"Getting voters excited about one possible plan is simply a ploy to distract voters from what's really happening, which is a foreign company sees a chance to make huge profit off of Oregonians and take the money out of the state," said Cynara Lilly, a spokeswoman for the campaign opposing the measure.

Measure 82 calls for broadly authorizing private casinos in Oregon, and Measure 83 asks specifically if one should be permitted at the Multnomah Kennel Club. The public won't vote on specific development plans, and the investors would be free to modify them.