Mixed Messages from Oregon’s Spirit Mountain Casino

Commercial ads popped up on the televisions of Portland, Oregon residents on Thursday warning of the villainous ways of Vegas-style casinos, particularly that of the proposed new casino in Wood Village. These ads were paid for, in majority, by the Grande Ronde Tribe, owners of the largest casino in the state, Spirit Mountain Casino.

What makes this story so interesting is that while degrading the intentions of the intended Wood Village casino, the advertisement called their “Vegas-style” gaming “rigged”, “corrupt” and used plenty of other derogatory terms to sway voters. On the very same day, an entire page of The Oregonian newspaper displayed a supportive story for Spirit Mountain Casino with the bold headline, “Spirit Mountain offers Vegas-style gaming in the perfect setting for quick getaways.”

So which is it? Is Vegas-style gaming immoral and perverted? Or is it the perfect escape from the woes of everyday living?

The television ads warning against the production of Wood Village Casino, which redubbed the project originally termed ‘The Grange” to “The Grunge”, were devised by the organization, Still a Bad Idea PAC. This is a fact that the Grand Ronde Tribe is grasping at in defense of their own ostensibly similar campaign. However it’s hard to ignore that the ad, which aired multiple times that day, was paid for primarily by the casino-toting tribe.

A trip to the website of Still a Bad Idea PAC reveals the same depreciating campaign against the Wood Village Casino, actually using the term “Vegas-style” four times on the same page. It relies heavily on the fact that the new operation would be the first and only non-tribal casino in the state of Oregon.

The printed advertisement for Spirit Mountain Casino wields the same “Vegas-style” label, but encourages gambling enthusiasts to traverse the 62 miles of highway to reach the rural community and partake in the casino’s plethora of entertaining gaming opportunities. It boasts a fantastic array of entertainment including performances from musical bands like Bon Jovi and Guns & Roses. It speaks of a luxurious hotel with lavish accommodations and delicious restaurants that have been recently renovated.

Cynara Lilly, a spokesperson for Still a Bad Idea PAC, defended the position of Spirit Mountain Casino and its owners, the Grand Ronde Tribe. “While the Grande Ronde is a funder, we are a separate entity from the tribe and are not responsible for both advertisements,” said Lilly. “And it must be noted that the nine largely rural casinos run by Oregon tribes would be devastated by a gigantic casino sited just outside of Portland.”

While it is likely that the Grand Ronde Tribe was not informed that the organization they funded to help vitiate the proposed launch of a new opposing casino in the area would be utilizing the term “Vegas-style” in such a demeaning fashion, I for one could not suppress a hearty chuckle at the similarities between two contradictory campaigns.

In the opposing corner, supporters of the new casino in Wood Village are promoting its “family friendly” nature and the thousands of job opportunities it would create for the community. As far as its being the only non-tribal casino in the state, backers are simply avoiding that subject for the time being.

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