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Downtown Duluth casino feud escalates; mayor threatens closure

Duluth Mayor Don Ness took another step in the ongoing feud between the city and the Fond-du-Lac Band over the downtown casino as the two sides battle over profit sharing.

Duluth Mayor Don Ness took another step in the ongoing feud between the city and the Fond-du-Lac Band over the downtown casino as the two sides battle over profit sharing. He said he would seek to shut down the casino as a last resort, if a new agreement can’t be reached, according to the Duluth News Tribune.

The paper quotes Fond du Lac’s tribal chairwoman Karen Diver saying: “It seems that he’s trying to influence public opinion in a negative way toward the band. He’s promoting hatred, and it’s irresponsible.”

For 20 years, the two sides had an agreement that allowed the band to run the casino in return for sharing about $6 million a year of the take with the city. But the band stopped sharing in 2009, and there’s been a federal court ruling that it can stop future payments but must make back payments of $12 million to $14 million to the city.

Said Ness: “We’re hopeful the band and the city can find agreement, that we can settle our differences and find a way that this contract and partnership can continue for the benefit of both parties and these protections don’t need to be triggered.”

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Said Driver: “The mayor has asserted what he feels the city’s legal rights are, but the National Indian Gaming Commission and a federal court both disagree with him. To continue to hold press conferences as he did today seems like saber-rattling. It looks like he’s trying to use the media to compel negotiations that the band has been ordered not to have.”