Fond du Lac Band faces more court battles with city over casino

Artist's rendering of the new exterior of the Fond-du-Luth Casino in Duluth, Minnesota. The tribe is spending $5.5 million to renovate the facility. Image from Fond du Lac Band

The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians has emerged victorious in a series of lawsuits over its casino in Duluth, Minnesota, but some court battles remain.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals is determining whether the tribe must pay an additional $12 million to the city as part of a revenue-sharing agreement that has since been invalidated by the National Indian Gaming Commission. Oral arguments took place in November but a decision hasn't been issued.

The city is also suing the Bureau of Indian Affairs for cancelling the disputed agreement for the Fond-du-Luth Casino, KQDS reported. That case appears to be in the early stages although media coverage has been scant.

Finally, the city is trying to stop the tribe from following the land-into-trust process for a site adjacent to the casino. A federal judge dismissed the case in December but an appeal, if any, hasn't been announced although future litigation is likely if the BIA ever approves the application.

The tribe opened the Fond-du-Luth Casino in 1986 -- two years prior to the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Under the invalidated agreement, the city received 19 percent of gross revenues from the facility.

The tribe stopped making payments in 2009. By that time, the city had received $80 million.

"The band has paid approximately $80 million to date to the city, far more than is required from other businesses for city services," the tribe said in a press release, KQDS-TV reported. "Despite that, the band has repeatedly offered the city a fee to cover city services, which they have declined in favor of pursuing failed litigation attempts.”

The NIGC issued a notice of violation (NOV) to the tribe back in 2011 that officially ended the agreement. The agency determined that the deal violated IGRA by giving another party a "proprietary interest" in the casino.

In January 2013, the 8th Circuit agreed with that assessment in a lawsuit that the city filed against the tribe. The city did not appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., agreed with the same assessment in a decision issued on Monday. The city has not said whether it will take the matter to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Get the Story:
City Reacts to Federal Judge Ruling About Casino Battle (KQDS 4/1)

Prior 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision:
City of Duluth v. Fond Du Lac Band (January 14, 2013)

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City loses yet another ruling in Fond du Lac Band casino dispute (4/1)
Fond du Lac Band plans to spend $5.5M on casino renovations (3/23)
Fond du Lac Band to spend $3M on more modern look at casino (02/23)
Fond du Lac Band wins ruling affecting land adjacent to casino (12/24)
8th Circuit hears arguments in Fond du Lac Band casino suit (11/13)

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