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Indian casino money improperly documented, audit finds

A gambler puts money into a slot machine at casino in Riverside County, one of four counties that were audited.
A gambler puts money into a slot machine at casino in Riverside County, one of four counties that were audited.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Counties in California have failed to properly document how $1.7 million in Indian gaming money was distributed, according to an audit released Thursday by the California state auditor’s office.

State lawmakers earmarked $39 million for the Indian gaming special distribution fund between the fiscal years 2010 and 2013, money which was then distributed to local governments to offset the impact of casinos in the area. The money often funds public safety, public health and roads projects.

In all, the audit reviewed 12 grants of casino funds in San Diego, Riverside, Butte and Lake counties.

In seven of them, the audit found, the grants were improperly documented by the benefits committee in each county — a group typically consisting of county, city and tribal representatives charged with distributing the funds.

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In Butte County, for example, the committee gave $221,000 to increase staffing at a local fire department, but the department had not shown that the two local casinos increased the department’s workload enough to justify that amount.

Margarita Fernandez, a representative of the California state auditor’s office, said her office is recommending that the Legislature consider forming an agency to provide oversight and technical help in distributing the casino-related funds.

christopher.goffard@latimes.com

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