Appeals court sides with Fond du Lac band in Duluth casino dispute

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A federal appeals court panel has upheld a ruling that the Fond du Lac band of Lake Superior Chippewa is not obligated to share casino profits with Duluth.

For 15 years the band did share profits from its Fond du Luth casino with the city, providing Duluth with $75 million in revenue. But the tribe stopped making the payments in 2009, arguing the agreement with the city violated federal law. A District Court agreed with that position in 2011 and panel of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling in the decision filed Monday.

Still in dispute, however, are two years worth of payments from 2009 to 2011. The district court had ruled the band should make more than $12 million in back payments to cover those years. The appeals panel disagreed, and sent the matter back to the lower court for further review.

Duluth has counted on the casino money to provide about $6 million per year, which the city used for street repairs. Mayor Don Ness told the Star Tribune Monday's ruling is devastating news for taxpayers of Duluth.

Since the legal dispute with the tribe has gone to court, some in Duluth have suggested the city look to build its own casino on the Lake Superior waterfront.

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