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There are dozens of special funds in state government, but few have gotten as much attention from state auditors in recent years as the Indian Gaming Special Distribution Fund.

The scrutiny continued this week, when the Bureau of State Audits released its third review of the SDF's operation. And as with audits in 2007 and 2011, the latest review flags similar types of problems in how the money is spent.

The fund is a product of the state's legalization of casinos on tribal land in 2000. Various tribes with casinos have paid into the distribution fund over the years to help mitigate casino impacts. In 2012-13, $9.1 million was allocated to local benefit committees to distribute.

This week's audit examined $1.7 million worth of grants awarded by local benefit committees in Butte, Lake, San Diego and Riverside counties from July 2010 through June 2013. It found that there was insufficient documentation from the grant applicants, prompting concerns that the expenditures were casino-related.

The chart below shows the grants awarded by the four Indian Gaming Benefit Committees reviewed by auditors.

CountyNumber of grants awardedTotal grants awarded
The Sacramento Bee
Butte16$2,606,000
Lake31$1,723,000
Riverside118$18,703,000
San Diego49$6,366,000
Totals214$29,398,000

Also, the review found that Butte County's local benefit committee lacks a conflict of interest code. And if locals have questions about how to allocate the money, state law is silent about which state agency should advise them, the audit said.

The fund's days nevertheless may be numbered. Renegotiated gaming compacts several years ago significantly reduced tribes' payments into the fund. The fund, which distributed $95.6 million from July 2010 through July 2013, is on pace to have only $81,000 on hand by July 2015, according to the governor's January budget proposal.

PHOTO: Pamela Stottlemyre of Sacramento plays a slot machine at the Colusa Casino in April, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench



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