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The state fund that helps provide a lifeline to dozens of poor tribes is almost tapped out, the Legislative Analyst's Office said in a new report, which notes that the state has no plan to cover the costs.

Created by the law that legalized Las Vegas-style gambling on tribal lands, the special distribution fund has paid for gambling regulators, problem gambling programs and local grants to help communities deal with casino impacts. It also subsidizes a separate fund that pays tribes who only have small casinos or no casinos at all.

But after running large surpluses a decade ago, the fund has spent much more than it's taken in since the late 2000's. That's when several large tribes started making revenue-sharing payments to California's general fund instead of paying into the distribution fund.

The distribution fund is on track to be empty by the end of June 2015, the LAO reported. There are no easy fixes — ultimately, the analyst said, lawmakers might have to tap the state's general fund to pay for programs now covered by the distribution fund.

Other possible solutions include crafting future tribal casino deals that provide more money for poor tribes and requiring tribes to negotiate casino-mitigation agreements with surrounding communities, the analyst said.

PHOTO: Dealers practice before the opening of the 340,000-square-foot Graton Casino & Resort in October 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.



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