Three Rivers Casino Sets Up Charitable Arm

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Byline: Winston Ross The Register-Guard

FLORENCE - Once the Three Rivers Casino started offering craps and roulette - and clearing a profit - the compact the casino's owners signed with the state of Oregon required them to establish a charitable foundation, and eventually turn over up to 6 percent of said profits to government and non-profit organizations.

That time has come, and it marks a watershed for The Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians. They were the last of the state's nine federally recognized tribes to open a casino, and they're now the latest to be making enough money to begin giving some of it back. The charitable numbers also give an indication of how the casino venture is going, indicating that it earned a little under $3 million last year.

The tribe's newly anointed Three Rivers Foundation is now accepting grants from qualifying organizations, and will award its first $90,000 block of money early next year.

Those eligible to apply are government and nonprofit organizations in the tribe's five-county "service area" of Coos, Lane, Douglas, Curry and Lincoln counties, or groups outside that area that can demonstrate that their project is important to Native American populations in Oregon, has a "statewide" impact or that they are themselves a federally recognized tribe in the state.

"The Three Rivers Foundation is an exciting opportunity for us to invest in our local communities," said Mark Ingersoll, president of the foundation board and vice chairman of the tribe.

It's also a sign that the tribe's $75 million-plus investment is paying off.

Despite some fierce local opposition, the casino opened as a "sprung structure," which most people call a "tent," back in 2004. After three years, the tribe's venture was successful enough to persuade Merrill Lynch to loan it $70 million to build a more permanent facility, along with a hotel and events center.

There are now more than 700 slot machines and video games at the casino. But it wasn't until the tribe added roulette, craps, blackjack and Texas Hold 'em to the offerings in 2008 that the requirement to donate a percentage of net proceeds to charity kicked in. And it wasn't until now that the tribe reached the point of setting up a foundation.

The percentage of earnings donated to charity started at 2 percent and grew to the 4 percent it's at now. Next year, the tribe will donate 6 percent of its proceeds to charity, via the foundation. …