Thursday, August 2, 2001

Idaho

Coeur d'Alene tribal payments slip
Tribe says snowy weather hurt casino profits, which fund biannual checks

Becky Kramer
Staff writer

Coeur d'Alene _ Coeur d'Alene tribal members received smaller per capita payments this summer, based on lower profits at the tribe's casino in Worley.

Snowy weather and poor driving conditions took a toll on casino revenues during November and December, said Dave Matheson, the tribal gaming CEO. As a result, per capita payments dropped from $1,068 to $900.

It was the first time since the Coeur d'Alene Tribal Casino opened in 1993 that payments have declined from the prior year, Ma
theson said.

However, the lower revenues in November and December appeared to be a "blip," Matheson said. Revenues were back up again in January, he said.

The per capita payments are a dividend paid twice yearly to the 1,770 enrolled members of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe. When tribal gaming was established, the tribe voted to return 25 percent of the profits to its members. The remaining money funds education, social programs and land acquisitions.

In the last eight years, the casino has grown to include 1,200 Vegas-style machines, a hotel and conference center, concerts and boxing matches. Plans call for developing the casino into a destination-style resort.

Per capita payments are made in June and December. The timing is intended to give families a helping hand with purchases of back-to-school clothes and Christmas shopping, Matheson said. For tribal members under 18, half of the per capita payment is put into an interest-bearing trust fund.

With three kids at home, extra cash is always welcome, said Coeur d'Alene tribal member Brenda Abraham. "The only bad thing about it is that you have to pay taxes, because it does come from tribal gaming money," she said.

Abraham is part of the casino's marketing team, and her husband, John, is a field representative for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The family doesn't rely on per capita payments for living expenses, she said, but uses them for "extras," such as overnight trips to Spokane. Last year, Abraham's 7-year-old daughter used part of her check to replace the bike she'd outgrown.

Her two teenagers also like to watch their money growing in their trust accounts. The accounts provide a good incentive for tribal teens to graduate from high school, Abraham said. If they don't graduate, they can't touch the money until they turn 21.

"I'm seeing a lot more kids aim for graduation," she said. "Having teens in the house, I hear a lot about it."


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