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Coeur d’Alene’s Restructure Gaming Payouts to Support Education in Idaho

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The Coeur d’Alene Tribe has donated over $18 million to education since 1994. Those annual payments will continue but will now follow a more formal and structured application and reporting procedure.

Tribal chairman Chief James Allan explained that tough economic times have resulted in more requests from schools and nonprofits. The new procedure “will help us meet the most pressing educational needs while also allowing for more predictability and a greater level of understanding of the donation process within our community,” he said.

The Coeur d’Alene Tribe began gaming compact negotiations with the state of Idaho in 1992 and voluntarily agreed to donate five percent of its net gaming proceeds to support education within the region. Later meetings with the governor resulted in that provision being included in compacts with all the tribes. Since 2005 the annual payment has exceeded $1 million and it’s expected this year’s payment will be in the range of $1.2 million.

But not everyone has been happy with those payouts and that, plus increased applications, required a change to facilitate the process.

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The tribe has now established a definite procedure for those schools and nonprofits seeking help. This outlines dates when applications must be received for funding in the following year, when the recipients will be notified, when checks will be issued, and what the money would be used for. It also asks if the applicant has received a donation in the last year from the tribe, resort/casino, or golf course. Furthermore, the tribe is requiring that recipients complete a short form within six months of receiving the money which describes how the money was used. Failure to do this may result in that school or agency being disqualified from applying in the future.

“It helps so we can prioritize,” Heather Keen, public relations director for the tribe, said. “It’s on a timeline so we can compare proposals against other proposals and see what the pressing needs are all at once. Right now they trickle in and we don’t really have a sense of who needs what and when.”

Allan explained that the compacts specify that half the money must be spent on the reservation and the other half can go to locations outside the reservation. It needn’t even be given to educational facilities and nonprofit agencies in the vicinity of the reservation if more pressing requests come from elsewhere. “That’s what we did last year,” he said. “We donated to a lot of small schools in southern Idaho.”

Allan added that this method will also help protect the tribe. The better files and tracking system will show who is requesting and the amount, especially with the increasing number of requests. It should also be a two-way street to elicit support should that need occur.

“It will be helpful,” Allan said. “We wanted to streamline the process. It will be more like other large organizations, like the Gates Foundation, with an application process in place with deadlines.”