Oregon is hardly considered a major gambling hub, especially when compared to pioneers in this field like Nevada and New Jersey. While the local industry is indeed not as large, the state still offers a decent range of legal and regulated gaming options. Oregon is lacking commercial gambling establishments, but nearly a dozen tribal casinos are strewn around the state, standing ready to satiate local players’ appetites for action.
State-sanctioned lotteries and charitable and social gaming also enjoy legal status in the Beaver State. Thousands of slot machines, also known as video lottery terminals, operate legally outside the tribal venues at taverns, restaurants, and bars. Oregon was an early adopter of parlay sports betting on football, which became available in 1989 via the lottery-operated service Sports Action.
When sports wagering was outlawed on a federal level three years later, Oregon was partially exempt from the ban. It continued to offer football parlays until it eventually prohibited them in 2007 as a condition of being permitted to host a collegiate basketball tournament. After the demise of the federal ban, legal sports betting returned to the state in the summer of 2019 in both retail and remote format.
Oregon’s laws have always been liberal, so much so that it became the first state in the country to decriminalize the possession of illegal substances in small quantities. With this in mind, some readers will perhaps find it surprising that Oregon still disallows online casino games. But as you shall see later, local authorities do not take the enforcement of this ban all that seriously.
Gambling Laws in Oregon
Most gambling activities are covered by the Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS), a set of codified state laws republished each odd-numbered year. The latest edition from 2021 lists all gambling-related offenses and their corresponding penalties in Chapter 167. Unlike the statutes of most other states, Oregon’s codified law expressly mentions internet gambling in §167.109.
Tribal Gaming Compacts in Oregon
The terms of the nine compacts between Oregon and the local tribes are quite similar. Each tribal nation is required to establish multiple regulatory departments to supervise its casino gaming operations. The tribes must also receive authorization for the conduct of Class III gambling from their corresponding gaming commissions.
The commissions must then submit the regulatory rules to the Oregon State Police, a governmental agency that oversees the tribal gaming activities in conjunction with the tribal authorities. The compacts impose restrictions on the maximum number of slots each casino can operate.
Nonetheless, negotiating additional gaming machines with the state is possible if a tribe reaches its limit. The maximum number of gaming machines is compact-specific. For example, the Grand Ronde compact authorizes the operation of up to 2,000 video lottery terminals, whereas the Warm Springs tribe can offer no more than 400 machines at its facility.
The Ministry of the Interior must approve each state-tribe compact before it comes into effect. Below is a breakdown of all tribes currently doing business in Oregon.
- Burns Paiute Tribe
- Klamath Tribes, Madocs & Yahooskon, Coos
- Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians
- Lower Umpqua & Siuslaw Indians
- Coquille Indian Tribe
- Confederated Tribes of Siletz
- Confederated Umatilla Indian Tribes
- Confederated Warm Springs Tribes
- Confederated Grande Ronde Tribes
The nine gambling compacts have no maximum validity terms and the tribes can renegotiate them whenever they wish. They authorize the provision of casino games belonging to the Class III category, such as slot machines, and house-banked table games like roulette, baccarat, craps, and pai gow poker. Keno and off-track pari-mutuel wagering are also permitted on tribal lands.
Gaming Taxes Imposed on Oregon Tribal Operators
1The Compact Terms
Oregon tribal operators earn hundreds of millions in gross gaming revenue annually but their profits are not subject to federal income taxes as is the case with commercial casinos. Under the compact terms, the tribes must cover the costs of any street, road, and highway improvement deemed necessary by the Oregon Department of Transportation for the alleviation of the gaming venues’ impact on traffic.
2Community Benefit Fund
Additionally, the operators must contribute to a community benefit fund. The exact amounts vary slightly across the different compacts but the operators allocate approximately 6% of their previous year’s gross revenue. Contributions to the fund are due annually and generally go toward charity organizations. The governments of the counties where the tribal lands are located also receive a portion of the money.
Some of the revenue is used for improvements of the road and highway infrastructure. IGRA, the legislation that governs Native American gaming on a federal level, requires Oregon tribes to implement their gaming revenue for tribal economic development and improving the welfare of the tribal community, among other initiatives.
3Casino Winnings Withholding
All casino operators must report players’ winnings to the State Department of Revenue whenever they exceed a certain amount. Gambling earnings in excess of $5,000 are subject to income tax withholding at a fixed rate of 24%. The casinos normally issue W-2G forms to players who meet the withholding criteria.
Responsible Gambling Policies at Oregon Tribal Casinos
According to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), approximately 2.6% of the state’s adult population struggles with problem gambling to some degree. More than 80,000 Oregonians suffer from clinical gambling disorders, while 180,000 others are at higher risk of developing a gambling addiction. Taking these figures into account, we find it a bit surprising local landbased casinos do not have any dedicated programs for self-exclusion.
The operators are not obliged to display responsible gaming messages on their premises, either. The compact terms do not impose any specific restrictions on gambling advertising. Age restrictions are in place, however. Tribal casinos must not allow anyone under the legal age of 21 to participate in gambling or loiter on the gaming floor.
Staff members under this age are allowed as long as their professional duties are not related to the conduct of gaming. There are no restrictions on the casinos’ operational hours. The facilities can conduct gaming around the clock, including on national holidays.
State authorities strive to minimize gambling harm through research, education, and various responsible gaming policies. Oregon law requires the state-sanctioned lottery operator to allocate 1% of its annual revenue to a dedicated fund for addiction treatment and prevention. Several years ago, the Beaver State ranked second in the country in terms of investments into gambling addiction services.
Online Gambling in Oregon
Except for social casinos and sports wagering, online gambling remains illegal in Oregon for the time being. Social casinos offer classics like baccarat, blackjack, and hundreds of online slots but the games are free to play and customers use virtual credits for betting. Such social games are intended solely for entertainment as participants cannot win any real cash.
These are broadly accessible via social platforms like Facebook or dedicated social casino websites. Local players who crave some real-money action have the alternative of joining offshore online casinos operating from outside the United States. With that said, Oregonians should approach such sites with due caution since some of them are not properly licensed. Playing there is sometimes riskier due to the lack of adequate regulatory oversight and customer protections.
Legal Sports Betting in Oregon
Oregon has been offering legal sports betting since the late 1980s when the state lottery operator launched the parlay wagering service Sports Action. The platform was eventually discontinued in 2007 due to pressure from professional sports franchises. After the demise of the federal ban under PASPA, the state expanded its sports wagering industry.
Sports betting is now available at lottery-operated retail locations, kiosks, and tribal casinos. Oregonians can have a flutter on all major professional sporting events and enjoy a nice variety of bet types, including moneyline, straight bets, futures, teasers, totals, and head-to-head wagers.
Although it is not regarded as a major gambling hub, Oregon still has plenty of legal gaming options to keep its gamblers satisfied. Commercial casinos are unavailable but tribal gambling operators are thriving on Oregonian soil and have a rather strong presence in the state. In-person and mobile sports wagering is also legal here but with some restrictions on collegiate events.
The Beaver State does not tolerate online real-money gaming for the time being and clearly states this in its revised statutes. But as we mentioned earlier, some offshore casinos disregard Oregon’s anti-online gambling stance and still accept real-money action from local players. Hopefully, the state will move to legalize and regulate this form of online gambling but by the looks of it, the chances of this happening soon are minuscule.