Fond du Lac Band wins court victory over city of Duluth

5 August 2015

A U.S. District Court judge has ruled in favor of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in its ongoing dispute with the City of Duluth over revenue sharing from the tribe’s downtown casino.

In the most recent court decision, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson ruled that the band does not have to pay more than $10 million in back payments and interest to the City of Duluth. The judge wrote in her decision, “Directing millions of dollars away from the band is directly contrary to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act’s goals of promoting tribal economic development, tribal self-sufficiency and strong tribal government.”

The dispute goes back to 1986, when the tribe acquired a square block of land in downtown Duluth. The acquisition was part of a deal under which the tribe would use the property to open a casino and share profits with the city.

In 1988, Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which required that tribes be the sole beneficiary of their gaming operations, putting the agreement between Fond du Lac and the City of Duluth on the wrong side of federal law. The band stopped making payments to the city in 2009, and in 2011, the National Indian Gaming Commission, the regulatory authority over Indian gaming, ruled that the agreement was unlawful.

Fond du Lac Chairwoman Karen Diver said she hopes the decision puts an end to the long-standing dispute. According to an August 1 article in the Star Tribune,

“The Band continues to hope that the whole matter can be put to rest.”
Chairwoman Karen Diver