From a hybrid of general libertarianism regarding individual rights and a general reticence to gaudy, Vegas-style outlets comes the weirdness that is betting law in Oregon. And in the 21st-century sports world, Portland and Oregon are in quite a strange position for a, likesay, second-tier market more worthy of franchise consideration than the Louisvilles or Birminghams, but taken far less seriously than a Las Vegas.
Betting in Oregon
Folks in Oregon are perfectly willing to live-and-let-live on issues of betting games – as long as they keep the noise down, it seems. A bizarre mashup of a law has resulted in some 14,000 or so betting machines, but not a single proper casino outlet outside of reservation land.
Said mutant legislation was passed in 1984. Added to the state constitution was the so-called Measure 75, a provision that read “The Legislative Assembly has no power to authorize and shall prohibit casinos from operation.” While seemingly plain enough of language, these 14 words have given legal types lots of court time arguing within the wiggle room. For example: Clearly the Assembly cannot authorize a casino, but can, likesay, voters in a ballot referendum…? Also, how is “casino” to be defined?
About one paragraph down in Article XV, section 4, though, is a provision that *allows* electronic betting games, provided these games do not dispense banknotes or coins: “The State Lottery may operate any game procedure authorized by the commission […] whereby prizes are distributed using any existing or future methods among adult persons who have paid for tickets or shares in that game; provided that, in lottery games utilizing computer terminals or other devices, no coins or currency shall ever be dispensed directly to players from such computer terminals or devices…” (Gee, it’s almost like you’d need a credit card to play…)
Following the key 14 words of Measure 75, textually speaking, however, is a provision which *allows* for the operation of electronic gaming terminals offering slot machines, video poker and keno-style games. With this oddity installed in the constitution, Native Americans had little trouble establishing bingo halls and thereafter (what most folks would call) casinos after passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) of 1988.
So while attorneys and lobbyists harangue, Oregonians play betting games in hundreds to thousands of locations throughout the state. Nearly two generations into legal gambling has resulted in no more addiction than in most areas of the U.S., and the tax revenues brought in by games were touted as a key argument for proponents of marijuana legalization in 2012 (legalization stunningly lost in a referendum that year, but still).
Thus is fantasy football betting absolutely no issue for Oregon players as of 2018, but naturally has spawned much political debate. In 2013, the state legislature decided to run with a “material factor” test in analysis of daily fantasy sports games, rather than the well more frequently used “predominance test.” As one oft-quoted legal opinion at the time stated, the material factor test “makes it more difficult to offer skill-based” betting. Analysis is ongoing, and in 2017, two bills regarding regulations and taxation DFS within Oregon were introduced to the state legislature, but … go ahead, guess.
Football in Oregon
Unless you’re one of those weirdoes into indoor football, the history of professional football is brief and pretty bleak. Despite the thriving metropolis of Portland – currently ranked no. 26 in population among US cities, high-level football in Oregon hasn’t truly been explored since some very forward-thinking rogue leagues.
In autumn 1973, while the World Football League was still in its planning stages, some rapid dealings among owners saw the Boston franchise relocating to New York before having played a game. The would-be second franchise was to be moved westward, and Portland was chosen over other nascent markets such as Phoenix and Seattle.
The Portland Storm played to a 7-12-1 mark in the league’s inaugural season and employed one Marty Schottenheimer as LBs coach. Attendance in that season for the Thunder was a fairly consistent 14,000 per game. But financial impropriety killed the team before they could play a second season, as the IRS slapped a lien on the team “thanks” to back taxes totaling $168,000 accrued by ownership. A second hastily-constituted franchise, the Portland Thunder, was created for ’75, but the entire league folded that year.
A decade later, the United States Football League’s Breakers (formerly the New Orleans Breakers, formerly the Boston Breakers) decided to try their fortunes in Portland for the 1985 season. The Portland Breakers drew 19,919 per game, seventh best in the 14-team league, despite going 6-12 with no name players on the roster. Heck, Portland could have proven to be a viable USFL market had, likesay, Donald F. Trump not been so brilliant at euthanizing the league by ’86.
And that’s about it. At the pro football level, Oregonians will likely have to continue supporting the Seattle Seahawks or San Francisco 49ers for decades yet to come: Upon announcing his XFL 2020 project, would-be commissioner Vince McMahon stated that XFL franchises would be located only in markets currently hosting NFL teams. And the capacity of Providence Stadium (née Civic Stadium) has been *reduced* from the 32,000 seats of the Thunder/Storm’s heyday, thereby making even more unattractive to another outdoor sport beyond soccer.
So let’s talk football in Eugene, specifically those University of Oregon Ducks, truly the state’s football team.
The college football explosion which swept the country over the last quarter of the 19th century certainly did not avoid taking in the University of Oregon as well. The school first fielded a team in March 1894, and that squad torched Albany College, 44-3, in its inaugural game. The Oregon Webfoots went 4-0 the following year and became known as a powerhouse in Pacific Northwest football, even running up a 115-0 score on Puget Sound University in 1910.
The team truly came to national prominence with the 1917 Rose Bowl game, however. The Webfoots easily handled a daunting Penn side, 14-0, thus essentially gift-wrapping the national title for Pitt. Oregon returned to the Rose Bowl in ’20, only to fall to Harvard. Shortly after this, the team name would begin its slow morphing into “Ducks.” In the 20s, a white duck named Puddles became the mascot of the football team and other University of Oregon sports teams. While the “Webfoots” moniker was officially voted in by students in ’32, sportswriters and students alike were already informally referring to the teams as the Ducks and by ’47, this became the official team name.
On the field, the late 1940s saw Oregon rise again, becoming a top-10 team with QB Norm Van Brocklin (today one of six Oregon football players in the College Football Hall of Fame); the Ducks would make three bowl game appearances between 1948 and ’60, but had to wait until the 1963 Sun Bowl to take its second bowl game win.
Though Oregon was hardly a stranger to air-it-out QBs beginning with Van Brocklin and running through Dan Fouts, the 1990s saw the introduction of the high-flying aerial attacks for which the university continues to be known – well, that and the blue field. Since 1990, Oregon has been a perpetual contender for the national title, playing in the national championship game twice, in 2011 and ’15. The latter culminated a 2014 season in which Marcus Mariota took nearly every possible offensive award, including the Ducks’ first-ever Heisman Trophy.
Betting on football in Oregon
Oregon currently allows betting on daily fantasy football. An ABC News story of late 2017 noted that “According to a 2014 legal opinion letter released in the New York litigation, Oregon follows a ‘material factor’ test. ‘This is a lesser standard than the predominance test and effectively makes it more difficult to offer skill-based gaming,’ wrote the author of a different 2013 legal opinion letter. Oregon held hearings in 2017 to consider a DFS-friendly bill.
As Oregon is one of just two states with an NBA team but not an NFL team (Oklahoma is the other), this state may be in line to pass football gambling-friendly legislation early in the 2020s. Though issues of vice in Oregon public referendums are often difficult to predict – against conventional wisdom, Oregon voters rejected a measure to legalize recreational marijuana at the same time Colorado and Washington voters approved their states’ similar proposals, for example – NFLbets would guess that Oregon could be an early decriminalizer of sports betting.
And they’ll probably do so in uniquely Oregonian fashion...