St. Paul alters eligibility for 10 Percent Club, recipients of charitable gambling proceeds


St. Paul alters eligibility for 10 Percent Club, recipients of charitable gambling proceeds, Members of St. Paul's '10 Percent Club,' take note. The St. Paul City Council has adjusted how $125,000 in proceeds from charitable gambling operations are distributed to youth pr…

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Members of St. Paul's '10 Percent Club,' take note.

The St. Paul City Council has adjusted how $125,000 in proceeds from charitable gambling operations are distributed to youth programs throughout the city, though not as dramatically as once planned.

Charitable gambling organizations have long been required to put 10 percent of their profits toward the city's eligible youth programs, but critics have said many worthy nonprofit efforts that serve St. Paul's most vulnerable children were unaware how to get on the city's official recipient list, which they said lacked focus.

Working with St. Paul Youth Services' YouthPower effort, City Council Members Rebecca Noecker and Jane Prince proposed deep changes to the youth program fund. A short-lived proposal would have increased grant maximums from $8,000 to $15,000, while focusing the grants on skill building in low-income and high-minority neighborhoods.

Their previous language, which has since been scrubbed, required that the money be spent toward reducing disparities through education, job training, financial skills or mentoring.

Noting the grants currently provide the majority of their funding, several long-standing grant recipients objected, including a Boy Scout troop on Conway Street and parent-organizers with Shakespeare in St. Anthony Park.

On Wednesday, the council voted 7-0 to adopt less sweeping revisions to the ordinance, hashed out with the help of Council President Amy Brendmoen. The maximum grants will remain $8,000. Requirements around education, job training and other skill building have been dropped, but the organizations must show that the charitable gambling proceeds will address costs, lack of transportation, language or cultural barriers.

Most participants must come from neighborhoods in 'areas of concentrated poverty' or qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, or an equivalent school program.

'We are very pleased with the outcome of your more inclusive process,' said Janet Lawson, an organizer with Shakespeare in St. Anthony Park. 'It will expand the reach. It does reduce the (maximum grant) amount, but from our experiences a little money can go along way.'

Brendmoen said the youth program fund once exceeded $1 million, but has dwindled to roughly a tenth that size. Conversations with the nonprofits have been 'a very interesting learning experience,' she said. 'The pot of money used to be significantly higher, largely because (it) was set up when pull-tabs were the only game in town.'

The new rules state that the recipient list will be published by the City Council and distributed annually, and put together based on recommendations from an employee of the Department of Safety and Inspections and a representative of St. Paul Parks and Recreation.

Under both the old and new rules, school teams and school clubs are not eligible recipients, but rec center booster clubs are. Recipient organizations must show that the majority of their funding will benefit youth ages 20 and under, at least 75 percent of whom are residents of the city.

Mike Lohman, director of the St. Paul Science Fair Support Group, which sets up after-school science clubs around the city, said he's been involved in the 10 Percent Club for roughly 30 years.

'Right now there are 43 groups looking for that money,' said Lohman, thanking Brendmoen and others for the latest revisions to the changes in an interview. 'If you raised the grants to $15,000, there are nine groups that are going to get that money, and 34 that will be left out. In talking to these council members, they could see where it was going to hurt kids.'

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