Porterville, CA loses at Indian gaming table

City may have to give back $215,000 in grant funds

By DENISE MADRID | dmadrid@portervillerecorder.com, March 22, 2013

The city of Porterville might give back more than $215,000 in grant money it received in the last two years to mitigate the impacts of tribal gaming, and lose out on thousands more.

During a closed-door meeting last week, the Tulare County Indian Gaming Local Community Benefit Committee, charged with selecting grant recipients, voted to request the money be return, Porterville City Council and committee member Cameron Hamilton announced during the council’s regular meeting Tuesday night.

The committee, a seven-member body made up of county, city and Tule River Tribe representatives, is responsible for the allocation and administration of funding provided by Senate Bill 621.

The bill was passed in 2004 and makes the money available to counties, cities and special districts affected by local tribal gaming from the Indian Gaming Special Distribution Fund.

Gaming tribes that operated 200 or more gaming devices on or before September 1999 contribute a variable portion of their net winnings into the fund. In Tulare County, the Tule River Tribe contributes winnings and must sponsor the grants and find the proposed grant projects have a valid relationship to the impacts associated with Eagle Mountain Casino.

A small portion of the funding is earmarked for the county’s administrative expenses, with the remaining divided 60 percent for nexus geographical proximity grants and 40 percent for discretionary grants.

Until last week, only the city and county qualified for the nexus grants while the city, county and special districts qualified for the discretionary grants.

“It all boils down to one thing; the nexus was not correct,” said Mike Ennis, a member of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors and the committee. “Porterville had been taking 60 percent and was supposed to get 40 percent. For the last three years, this was something we’d been talking about and we finally got (former state Sen. Michael) Rubio’s people to come down and look at it.”

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