Oregon’s COVID video lottery rules irk some bar owners

Coronavirus

Outcry over double standard that allows lottery but not the full opening of establishments

PAT KRUIS/MADRAS PIONEER

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — Since Jan. 27, lottery video games once again ching-ching away at local bars, but the with less ka-ching in the pockets of the restaurant owners.

At Round Butte Inn, the Oregon Lottery unlocked only three of Greg Foland’s six machines.

“If it was my choice, I’d have all six of them open,” says Foland. “Anything’s better than nothing.”

The new restrictions allow for only six players at a time, and then only if players can be separated by 6 feet. Bar employees must wipe down the machines between each player.

Foland says his crew does the best they can.

“It’s a pain in the a–! Sorry, but it is. It’s just another step we shouldn’t have to do,” says Foland. “I’m a firm believer that this is just something that’s going around and it’s not as bad as the media portrays it to be. When we have 99.9% recovery, it’s nothing more than a flu. That’s my personal opinion.”

Lottery games are essential to Foland’s bottom line. “They help us survive. There’s a lot of overhead on the bar. You’re not going to get rich on the bar. It’s going to be make or break with the lottery.”

Up the road at the Wild Winds Station, the Oregon Lottery unlocked only two of five machines. Opening the machines prompted owner Jennifer DuPont to open the bar. “In order to have the lottery machines, I have to have an OLCC license,” says DuPont. “To maintain my OLCC license, I have to serve five food items.”

Wild Winds Station opens its garage door, which DuPont believes satisfies Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines by providing ventilation, much like an outdoor tent.

DuPont considers it hypocritical of Gov. Kate Brown to open indoor lottery games but keep indoor dining closed. “I can open up a room that will make her money, but I cannot open up my restaurant to make my employees and ourselves money?”

DuPont has taken a few hits for being open in the face of COVID restrictions. She says OLCC called with questions but seemed satisfied the restaurant is following CDC guidelines. “My guess is OSHA will call next.”

Foland opened the Round Butte Inn two weeks ago, with no cross ventilation and no apologies. “I don’t believe Governor Brown has the right to make a law to close businesses,” says Foland. “She has no right to tell us to shut down. It’s our livelihood she’s messing with.”

Foland says the community has supported his opening. “I just wish everybody else would do the same.”

COVID shutdowns have messed with income for the Oregon Lottery, too. Video games earn about $16 million a week, reported Oregon Lottery spokesperson Chuck Baumann. During the shutdowns, that income dropped to about $1 million a week. Video lottery earnings make up the lion’s share of total profits for the Oregon Lottery.

According to the governor’s recommended budget, funds raised through the lottery contribute 1% of the total state budget.

The Portland Tribune and Pamplin Media Group’s papers are a KOIN 6 News media partner

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