This quarter contributions from tribal gaming to the state reached $1 billion since contributions began in 2004.

The Arizona Benefits Fund shares tribal gaming revenue with cities across Arizona. The fund was started in 2002 when tribes passed Proposition 202. At that time groups were identified that could use the extra contributions.

Fifty-six percent of the shared revenues is directed to educational programs and needs; 28 percent goes to emergency services and trauma centers; 7 percent funds wildlife and habitat conservation; 7 percent funds statewide tourism promotion; and 2 percent supports the education, prevention and treatment of problem gambling.

“The funds themselves don’t replace or supplement anything,” said Valerie Spicer, executive director of the Arizona Indian Gaming Association (AIGA). “They’re made to identify special needs throughout the state. Back in 2002 especially the trauma care system was really in a situation that needed help. Identifying them as a recipient really allows those trauma systems to stay open.”

Dr. Peter Rhee, M.D., chief, division of trauma, critical care, burn and emergency services, at the trauma center in Tucson said they receive $3 to $5 million annually from the fund.

“These are significant amounts of money,” he said. “It’s maybe 5 to 10 percent of the operating budget. Any funding helps. In Tucson if the hospital did not get the money they probably would not provide trauma services.”

The fund has continued since 2004 even during the worst economic times. Since that year, tribal gaming has contributed nearly $430 million directly to Arizona’s school districts, and approximately $215 million to more than 64 hospitals in Arizona to provide emergency and trauma services. Tourism and wildlife conservation have each received about $61.5 million, and cities and towns have received nearly $105 million.

“Shared gaming funds have provided a consistent and much needed source of revenue for Arizona,” said Sherry Cordova, chairwoman of the Cocopah Tribe, who was a member of the Prop 202 AIGA Leadership. “It is remarkable to realize that tribes have been able to give back more than $1 billion to our state. The Arizona Benefits Fund and Tribal Gaming have been more impactful than any of us could have imagined.”

For more information on the fund, visit benefitingarizona.org.

Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com.

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