Dutch Bros co-founder says new Flying Lark jobs will vanish if Oregon officials keep stalling on betting machines

GRANTS PASS, Ore. – The multi-million dollar entertainment and horse racing business of Dutch Bros. co-founder Travis Boersma at Grants Pass may soon be shutting down before even opening its doors without officials in charge of the ‘Oregon won’t budge, Boersma told NewsWatch 12 Tuesday.

Boersma’s company, TMB Racing, was instrumental in introducing commercial horse racing into a revitalized Grants Pass Downs following the closure of Portland Meadows in 2019. With the return to business, Boersma then began working on The Flying Lark, a complex near the Downs which is said to offer “games, entertainment and meals.”

Flying lark photo / Facebook

Key to The Flying Lark concept was 225 Historic Horse Racing Machines (HHRs) – something like a cross between a slot machine and a real horse race, where people bet on videos of past races.

While casinos are banned under Oregon’s constitution outside of tribal reservations, a 2013 law provided an exception for certain historic racial betting methods. Boersma says he also helped craft a bill that was passed by the Oregon legislature in 2021, SB 165, which ensures multiple stakeholders get a taste of the funds generated by the two in direct. and historic horse races. The bill was enacted by Governor Brown in July.

According to Boersma, he broke new ground on The Flying Lark with the understanding that everyone was on board.

“We dotted all the ‘i’s, we crossed all the’ t’s – we had a lot of conversations with Tribe, with state and political figures, from soup to nuts, up and down over the course. of the past three years and there hasn’t been a single mention, the idea that we wouldn’t be able to open our doors, ”said Boersma.

With dozens of new employees hired at the end of last year and construction nearing completion, The Flying Lark is only missing one thing: the approval of the HHR machines from the Oregon Racing Commission. But consideration of The Flying Lark’s application has been delayed, which Willamette Week reported in November was requested by Governor Kate Brown at the behest of several tribes in Oregon.

In late December, TMB Racing filed a lawsuit against the Oregon Racing Commission, calling on the ORC to hurry up and issue its ruling.

Boersma says he’s bewildered by the sudden indecision, insisting that HHR machines are legal and that there are plenty of precedents for having a place equipped in the same way.

“[Portland Meadows] Not only were there HHR machines, 150 of them on the floor, they had a poker room, they had Oregon Lottery and Keno, ”Boersma said. “All we want to do are historic racing machines – and the purpose, the reason they exist is to help keep horse racing alive.

If the resistance to The Flying Lark comes from the tribes of Oregon, Boersma says he has reached out to their representatives to suggest partnerships in the business with “nothing but benefits and financial rewards.” While Boersma said those conversations continued until the week before Christmas, he did not say if there had been any sign of movement.

The project currently employs 165 people. Boersma said that while they can afford to continue paying these workers until February, their jobs will eventually disappear without the green light from the Oregon Racing Commission.

“That’s probably the most painful part about it, for me,” Boersma said. “I had a conversation with them last week and had to let them know what the causes and effects are here, and it’s catastrophic for people and their lives.”

Boersma said he was motivated not to make a profit from the business, but to reinvest money in horse racing and keep the sport alive in Oregon.

Dutch Bros., the coffee cart that Boersma co-founded with her brother in 1992, went public in September, instantly becoming the largest initial public offering in Oregon history and making Boersma a new billionaire. .

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