Rendering of the proposed casino in Wood Village. (R & S Strategy Group LLC)

A pair of developers who have made two unsuccessful attempts to build the state’s first privately owned casino are trying again.

Bruce Studer and Matt Rossman, two Lake Oswego businessmen, filed a pair of ballot initiatives on Thursday, Jan. 30, with the Oregon secretary of state’s office that would pave the way for a casino and entertainment center in Wood Village, a small city located east of Portland. The way the initiatives are written appear to effectively give the developers the only private casino in the state. 

Before the project can proceed, voters need to approve an amendment to Oregon’s constitution lifting its prohibition on privately owned casinos. In 2010 and again in 2012, voters turned down similar amendments sought by the developers.

Currently, Oregon’s casinos are owned and operated by federally recognized Indian tribes, which are exempt from taxes.

This time, the casino is being touted as “Oregon’s first taxpaying casino” that would provide a steady stream of money for the state’s persistent problem with homelessness. In a press release, Studer said that the casino could generate $100 million annually over for homelessness programs and Oregon schools.

Operating under the name R & S Strategy Group LLC, the developers have proposed another constitutional amendment lifting the restriction on private casinos. The amendment specifies that voters must also approve a separate ballot initiative authorizing the casino before it can open.

The developers have also filed an accompanying ballot initiative called the “Funding For Schools and Homelessness Taxpaying Casino Act” that seems to be drafted specifically at their casino.  

The narrowly tailored initiative only allows a casino to be located in Wood Village and outlines how taxes generated by it would be spent. If approved, 25% of gross revenues generated each month would be directed to the Oregon State Lottery Commission. Of that money, half would go into the Oregon State Lottery Fund. The other half would go to the newly created Oregon Taxpaying Casino Fund.

Of the casino money flowing to the special fund, 70% would go to the state for homelessness programs. The rest would be divided among federally recognized Indian tribes, Wood Village, Oregon State Police and a problem gambling fund.

In an interview, Rossman said that he’s heard from stakeholders that they were supportive of creating a permanent funding source aimed at the state’s homelessness crisis.

In previous attempts, Rossman and Studer proposed building the casino at the now-closed Multnomah Greyhound Track. The new location would be in an industrial area in Wood Village. R & S Strategy Group has an option to buy a 33-acre parcel north of Interstate 84.

Rossman said that the idea of placing the casino in an industrial area instead of in neighborhoods has proven to be more popular. The casino has buy-in from Wood Village city leaders.

“I support this project,” said Wood Village Mayor Scott Harden, in a statement. “We look forward to working with Matt and Bruce for approval of a taxpaying casino that will strengthen our communities by providing much needed permanent funding for homelessness solutions.”

Contact reporter Jake Thomas at 503-575-1251 or [email protected] or @jakethomas2009.