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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Bizarre Twist in the Fate of Portland Meadows Bill

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Wed, Apr 17, 2013 at 11:44 AM

A bill that could mean a financial reprieve for Portland Meadows will go before the Oregon House of Representatives—but only after benefitting from a bizarre reversal in fortune this morning.

In session today, the House Business and Labor Committee initially voted to send HB 2613 to the House Rules Committee. The bill would allow Portland Meadows to install "instant racing" machines that re-run historic races for patrons to bet on. The North Portland horse track loses money every racing season, and says the measure could be a financial savior.

But it seemed the committee's vote would doom the bill. As one member joked: "I'd wager it doesn't make it out (of the Rules Committee)." There was laughter.

Then everything stopped. Committee Chairwoman Rep. Margaret Doherty, D-Tigard, called a break in the hearing. When the session resumed, legislators promptly took up the bill again, voted to reconsider the previous vote and then voted 8-2 to send the bill to the House floor, with a recommendation for passage.

What happened during the break to convince them the bill shouldn't languish? None of the lawmakers I've called have gotten back to me.

Portland Meadows management is in the midst of deciding whether or not to close the track, which opened in 1946. As I reported yesterday, that move would decimate Oregon's horse racing industry, which accounts for a good bit of economic activity in the state—$146 million in 2010 alone, according to a recent report.

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