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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Bingo Success Has Cda Tribe Optimistic About Lottery Residents Expect To See More Jobs, Benefits From The Program

For proof that the Coeur d’Alene tribe can handle the millions it would receive from its national lottery, locals point to the tribal bingo casino.

“I think they’ve got a good foundation going,” said Troy Evans, selling propane at the Fighting Creek Store.

“From what I’ve seen from the bingo hall, I can’t see how that (lottery) can be a negative thing.”

One estimate projects the revenue from the tribe’s project at $400 million in three years.

Tribal officials, sketchy on details pending a March press conference, say they hope to have the lottery running this year. In numerous interviews on the Coeur d’Alene reservation, residents and visitors alike said they’re cautiously optimistic about the program.

“I think it’s a good thing for the Coeur d’Alene tribe,” said LaVerne Covington, a Colville Indian who lives in Worley.

“It will create more jobs.”

The tribe’s bingo hall grossed $14 million last year, tribal officials say.

Most of the $1 million in profits was set aside to buy back reservation land, pay for education and scholarships and - perhaps - “dividend payments” to tribal members in the future.

There are 1,300 tribal members.

The rest is split among tribal youth programs, elder care, economic development, cultural preservation and personal emergencies.

“They’ve wisely spent their money from the bingo parlor,” said Coeur d’Alene’s Lee Chitwood, buying cigarettes at the Indian Country Smoke Shop.

“They have the management ability,” he said.

“They can handle this (lottery), no problem.”

At Worley’s Peace Pipe Smoke Shop, clerk Russell Whaley said he has mixed feelings about where lottery profits should go.

On one hand, he said, he’d like to see direct payments to tribal members.

“There are a lot of projects, but the people don’t get much out of it,” he said.

On the other hand, Whaley said he’s been impressed by the tribe’s Benewah Medical Center and the difference it’s made to health care on the reservation.

“In the long run, they’re probably better off to do that than to give it to the people,” he said. “A big share of them just (spend) it away in the taverns.”

The federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act sets conditions for profits from Indian gambling facilities, said Idaho deputy attorney general David High.

The act says profits must pay for tribal government, the tribe’s general welfare or economic development. A tribe can also donate profits to charitable organizations or local governments, he said.

The act allows so-called “per capita” payments, in which an equal portion of the profits are given directly to tribal members, according to Michael Cox. Cox is the general counsel for the National Indian Gaming Commission, which approved the lottery contract two weeks ago.

But per capita payments must be approved by the Secretary of the Interior, Cox said.

“Congress authorized per capitas, but they certainly didn’t encourage it,” he said.

Tribal members are most interested in jobs, said Brenda Moses of DeSmet.

“There are a lot of people on welfare who want to get off it,” she said.

She works as a cashier at the tribal bingo casino, and predicts the lottery would spur other small businesses in the Plummer and Worley area.

Evans agreed.

“If people have a job, they’re spending that money,” she said. “It flows around.”