The Tavern Owners' Video Game Bluff | Editorial | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Coverage for Central Oregon, by Central Oregonians.
100% Local. No Paywalls.

Every day, the Source publishes a mix of locally reported stories on our website, keeping you up to date on developments in news, food, music and the arts. We’re committed to covering this city where we live, this city that we love, and we hear regularly from readers who appreciate our ability to put breaking news in context.

The Source has been a free publication for its 22 years. It has been free as a print version and continued that way when we began to publish online, on social media and through our newsletters.

But, as most of our readers know, times are different for local journalism. Tech giants are hoovering up small businesses and small-business advertising—which has been the staple for locally owned media. Without these resources, journalism struggles to bring coverage of community news, arts and entertainment that social media cannot deliver.

Please consider becoming a supporter of locally owned journalism through our Source Insider program. Learn more about our program’s benefits by clicking through today.

Support Us Here

Opinion » Editorial

The Tavern Owners' Video Game Bluff

Here's a dilemma we'd love to have: Say the state has put a machine in our home that spits out money at the rate of


1 comment

Here's a dilemma we'd love to have: Say the state has put a machine in our home that spits out money at the rate of $70,000 a year. But later the state tells us it's strapped for cash and can only afford to let the machine dispense, say, $64,000 a year.

Our choice: Do we (A) settle for the $64,000, or (B) pitch a hissy fit and tell the state to take its machine and shove it?

The obviously logical answer would appear to be (A). But some tavern owners say they're leaning toward (B).

What it's all about is video lottery games and how big a slice the state takes out of them vs. the share the tavern owners get. When the games started in 1992 the owners got a hefty cut of 35%. But the commission has been reduced several times in the intervening 17 years, and now stands at 23.77%. And there's a chance the state Lottery Commission might cut it again next month.

Susan Castillo, the state superintendent of education, would like to see the owners' share drop to 15% - roughly 9% below the current figure. Since the average tavern owner who has the lottery machines now earns $70,000 a year from them, his take would fall to $63,700.

The tavern owners - as they have every time the state has proposed reducing their commission - are crying poor. Some, such as Westside Tavern's Ken Weston, have been reported as saying they might kick the video machines out of their bars.

Weston says the $70,000-a-year figure is deceptive because part of it is taxed and goes back to the state, and because there are expenses associated with having the machines - the cost of electricity to run them, security costs, maintenance and administrative costs.

These arguments look questionable. Sure, the take from the machines is taxed - but so is all other business income. And although we don't have Weston's books in front of us, we're skeptical that the other costs he cites take a very significant bite.

Video lottery machines provide an indirect benefit to Weston and other tavern owners too: People come to play them, and while playing them they presumably order a drink or two, maybe even a hamburger and fries.

We generally don't like video lottery games and other kinds of state-sponsored gambling; they amount to a sneaky hidden tax that falls mostly on middle- and low-income people. But since the games are there, and since their main purpose is to raise money for education and other state needs, not to enrich bar owners, it's legitimate in these recessionary times for the state to take a bigger share.

As for the tavern owners, they're entitled to reasonable compensation. But frankly we don't believe a slight cut in their commission will bankrupt them - and we think they're bluffing when they threaten to get rid of the machines. They have the right to plead their case with facts and logic, but this clumsy attempt at intimidation deserves THE BOOT.

About The Author

Speaking of The Boot


Showing 1-1 of 1


Add a comment

More by Eric Flowers