Up to six people can use the video lottery machines in a restaurant or bar, but food and drinks cannot be served.
PORTLAND, Ore. – Restaurants and bars in Oregon’s “extreme risk” category turned on video lottery terminals on Friday for the first time in months.
For some, this can be a real business boost.
“You really want these things to hum and people to be buzzing,” said Derek Urbach, owner of Seaside Bar Bridge Tender. “It really makes or breaks you. It’s half the income, I would say, if not more sometimes.”
According to the new guidelines, one person at a time can play on a video terminal. No friends or family can stand around and watch. The terminals must be 6 feet apart and a maximum of six people can be in the play area at a time.
No food or drinks can be served inside.
Three machines were turned on at Canby’s Backstop Bar and Grill.
“I don’t think anything will change for me.” Backstop owner Ken Arrigotti said. “It won’t bring employees back.”
He said without indoor dining, business was down 80% and he said 34 of his employees would have to be laid off.
“We have six people who can come into the building just to play video poker, not to eat or drink. We didn’t rely on video poker to begin with,” he said. “It won’t do anything for us.”
The Oregon Lottery said video lottery machines are a billion dollar business.
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“We ran for 13, 14, 15 years, maybe we had total sales of over a billion dollars,” said Chuck Baumann, Oregon Lottery spokesman.
Video lottery money makes up about 70% of Oregon Lottery revenue. According to Baumann, the number has fallen to 6% compared to the previous year.
“When lottery revenue has decreased, it means that lottery funds are simply not available to the various beneficiaries who receive lottery dollars.”
Lottery dollars support schools, parks and veteran programs, among others. Baumann said for the week ending Jan. 23, the state’s Department of Economic Analysis forecast the video lottery machines would raise $ 16.6 million.
“The actual number was a little over 1 million to give you an idea of where the video is currently,” Baumann said.
The Oregon Lottery operates approximately 8,700 machines in the state’s 25 “extreme risk” circles. A large majority of these boroughs are along the Interstate 5 corridor.
“You can imagine that it will be good for these retail locations to flip the switch for 8,700 terminals because they depend on this money to run their business,” said Baumann.
Not everyone is so positive about it.
“I think it’s a joke,” said Amy Nichols, owner of the Happy Turtle.
The Merry Turtle, like all restaurants and bars, has been closed to indoor use since the state reorganized the county’s classifications.
“I think their saying ‘Now you can open yourself up to indoor activities for six’ is kind of a slap in the face for all restaurant owners.” Nichols said.
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