Council continues research into social gambling law

Sean C. Morgan

Police Chief Bob Burford provided information on social gambling ordinances in other cities to the City Council last week.

The council met for its regular meeting on Jan. 11.

Chief Burford found that some cities have ordinances that allow social gambling. Most of those involve annual fees, and many of the cities had no social gambling permits or licenses out for commercial establishments.

Sweet Home allows a game called pan with a one-time $25 fee.

Oregon law prohibits social gambling unless a city passes an ordinance permitting it. Even under those ordinances, businesses are not permitted to any revenues related to the gambling. They can sell food and drinks.

Frank Chau, owner of T&M Pizza asked the city to pass an ordinance to allow social gambling. He plans to sell products to make money in the arrangement. The council’s public safety committee has reviewed the issue and recommends the council take no action, continuing to prohibit such gambling.

The council discussed the issue at its Nov. 23 meeting and asked that further information be provided.

“I also spoke to the City of Albany as they just recently took up this issue,” Chief Burford said in a request for council action. “A major concern was that, once the door was open, there was no way to limit the number of businesses offering social games.

“A representative told me that upon their investigation, they found that the only way for the business owners to make money legally from these operations was to sell food or liquor to the players in a sufficient quantity to cover overhead.

“Since alcohol is the most likely sales item, increased problems associated with the consumption of alcohol must be anticipated. These included not only disturbances but DUIIs (driving under the influence of intoxicants) as well.

“The City of Albany, whose police department, like Sweet Home, is already stretched to the limit, chose not to risk this additional burden. In addition, Albany’s City Council found that there was no way for the Police Department to inspect these businesses for compliance with current manpower restraints.”

A social gambling ordinance would require some additional police manpower allocations for monitoring compliance with the law and responding to potential incidents, Chief Burford said.

The council will take the issue up again at its Feb. 15 meeting.

In other business, the council:

— Authorized City Manager Craig Martin to apply for a grant from the Sweet Home Community Foundation to implement the Oregon Meth Watch program in Sweet Home.

The city is working in cooperation with the East Linn Community Health Improvement Partnership on the project.

The program targets efforts to reduce production and distribution of methamphetamine by increased public awareness. It involves local retailers who have the necessary products for manufacturing methamphetamine.

If successful, the grant would allow for purchase of several information kits, which would be distributed to local retailers. The kits include awareness training for retail employees, posters, stickers and product display tags indicating the retailer is participating in the program.

The effort is designed to reduce the improper purchase and theft of the raw materials needed to produce methamphetamine.

— Adopted a resolution setting fees for erosion control permits.

— Held the second reading of an ordinance establishing a new method for calculating systems development charges. A hearing on the changes to the SDC ordinance is scheduled for Jan. 25.