Sunday, September 13, 2009

Measure banning pari-mutual betting could be a gamble

(Editor’s note: In 1952, Oregonians were as ballot measure happy as Californians are now. There were 18 measures put before voters that fall. Four tell us something about the temper of the times. One would permit liquor by the drink. In Oregon then you had to buy your hard liquor at a state store. As I recall, the pool halls sold beer but I guess no hard liquor before 1952. Two other measures involved truckers and daylight savings time. More on those three issues will be included in coming posts. A fourth ballot measure would have banned pari-mutual betting on horse races. As explained below, it was proof that California didn’t invest the practice of writing ballot measures in ways that no one could be sure what they were voting for. My father didn’t like gambling and, as explained below, planned to vote for the ban. I can find no evidence that it was imposed to overturn something that had been going on since 1933. But it may have been cancelled or changed by the state’s adoption of a State Lottery in 1984.)

The Argus Observes
By Don Lynch
From the Ontario Argus-Observer for Oct. 20, 1952

The Oregon Council of Churches together with some Portland business men sponsored this initiative to make pari-mutual betting on the races illegal. The bill was sponsored on moral grounds.

Most of the tax income from the races has been allotted to the county fairs and various special fairs and shows such as the PI, the state fair and the Pendleton Round-Up. It supports these shows. Malheur County has been a major recipient receiving over $90,000 for the fair here through the years and over $12,000 in the past year.

Most of the critics of pari-mutual racing conceded that the races have been cleanly and fairly operated under state supervision in Oregon.

My personal objection to this bill is that it is confusing in its language. It would become a constitutional amendment if passed and, as I understand it, would replace the existing constitutional provision against gambling. Some authorities think it is so poorly worded that while it prohibits pari-mutual betting it might permit other types of gambling unless expressly forbidden by the legislature.

I shall vote in favor of this measure because of my personal antipathy toward legalized gambling and my dislike of using gambling as a source of tax income. I think the fairs could be financed from other sources of income.

But I have no recommendation to readers on this measure because of its doubtful wording and because you will all vote your personal convictions on a moral question of this sort.

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