Duluth considers gamble on city-run casino


City leaders in Duluth are still mulling a proposal that would get the city into the casino business, MPR News reports.

Duluth has a downtown casino, run by the Fond du Lac Ojibwe Band, which used to be a profitable partnership for the city. Until five years ago, the band had shared roughly $6 million in revenue with the city, according to long-standing agreements. The city used the money to make needed street repairs.

But the band made a controversial decision in 2009 to halt the payments. Tribal leaders said the money would be put to better use helping the band's members.

“This notion of a partnership is a fallacy. We just plain paid them, sent them checks. That’s not a partnership. That’s alimony,” Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Chairwoman Karen Diver said in a Star Tribune story last year.

So the city took the band to court, sparking a protracted legal battle. The Minnesota Supreme Court in March ruled that the case should be handled in federal court.

Meanwhile, a proposal for the city to run its own casino at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center is under City Council consideration, although it has been tabled for the moment, a city spokeswoman told BringMeTheNews. Separately, a council committee is scheduled Thursday night to discuss the ongoing litigation with the band.

City Councilor Howie Hanson had pitched the city-owned casino idea last month. He says the new gaming facility could be even more profitable for the city than the partnership with the Fond du Lac Ojibwe Band had been.

The band's Diver has said the proposal is merely a city ploy to pressure the tribe.

"The gaming market is already saturated by existing mature operations," she told FOX 21. "Mr. Hanson's idea is not new and has been a part of the city's past rhetoric."

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