Skip to content
Home » Top Stories » Raw political power in Salem takes down The Flying Lark

Raw political power in Salem takes down The Flying Lark

Today, The Flying Lark’s application for horse racing machines was blocked by the Oregon Racing Commission. The ORC members voted this way due to pressure by Gov. Kate Brown. Here are excerpts from the Oregonian’s report with my comments in brackets:


Oregon Racing Commission, under pressure from governor, moves to block Travis Boersma’s Grants Pass gambling center

The Oregon Racing Commission on Thursday took a first step toward denying a proposal to allow casino-like gambling in Grants Pass, which proponents said was vital to support horse racing in the city.

The commission members made their vote under the threat of removal from their positions by Gov. Kate Brown. In a Wednesday email, Brown said: “It is my expectation that the Oregon Racing Commission will heed the advice in this published opinion by our state legal counsel. Where, as here, an application before a state regulatory licensing agency proposes unconstitutional activity, that application should be denied.”

[It is the Oregon Supreme Court, not the Oregon Attorney General, who gets to decide on what is constitutional in Oregon. The AG is entitled to express his opinion, which can be incorporated into the horse racing commission’s decision.]

“If members of the Commission vote to take any action inconsistent with the law, as interpreted by the Oregon Department of Justice, I would regard such conduct as contrary to my expectations for your appointment,” the governor continued. “This could provide grounds to initiate removal from the appointment as provided under the cause standard identified in ORS 462.230.”

[She is using her raw political power to get what she wants. This approach wins in the short term, but in November voters may inflict pain on the party in power.]

Boersma had said he would shut the track down if he didn’t get state approval for the adjoining gambling hall. But Boersma said at the meeting that he still believes there’s a path to keep horse racing alive. He said he will support the spring, summer and fall race meets out of pocket.

[During these racing meets, I recommend folks who normally go to tribal casinos or play the Oregon Lottery instead attend these races and vote with your pocketbook. That’s just my opinion it doesn’t make it constitutional.]

Employees of the Flying Lark gambling hall will lose their jobs, Boersma added.

[In the February Eagle, you read about some of the employees hired and soon-to-be fired at The Flying Lark.]

“The vote by the ORC today was disappointing, but not unexpected,” Boersma said in a statement after the meeting concluded. “As the ORC said in its motion, it would have approved The Flying Lark had it not been for the DOJ’s opinion. The DOJ opinion is wrong, willfully disregards the state’s laws and is directly responsible for the loss of more than 200 family-wage positions at The Flying Lark.”

[If entrepreneurs cannot count on state laws applying equally throughout the state, why would anyone gamble on starting a business in Oregon?]

The commission members passed a resolution contradicting much of what the Justice Department ruled. The commission said in the resolution that it would vote to license Boersma’s proposed gambling hall “if it were not prohibited from doing so by the Attorney General’s erroneous opinion.”

Jack McGrail, executive director of the racing commission, said he remains confused by the Justice Department ruling. “It’s discouraging,” he said. “It’s hard to reconcile the four years of historic horse racing machines at Portland Meadows and the new ruling. What’s legal in Portland is not legal in Grants Pass.”

[I’m confused why the commission didn’t ignore Governor’s threats, call her bluff and approve the application. Then the tribes could file a lawsuit which would end up at the Oregon Supreme Court. Unless this situation is reversed there won’t be horse racing in Oregon or a need for a Horse Racing Committee.]



This action against The Flying Lark is reason #47 to support the Greater Idaho Project.


Today’s ruling shows how we have our work cut out for us. We must reduce the power that elected officials in Salem have over families and businesses in rural Oregon.