According to local news reports, Interim Band Chairman Wally Dupuis and Mayor Emily Larson made the announcement on Wednesday of a proposed settlement agreement that in lieu of taxes for the downtown Fond-du-Luth Casino would provide an annual payment of $150,000 to the city; a far cry from the annual $6 million the band was paying to the city. The National Indian Gaming Commission determined that that revenue sharing agreement was in violation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
The band’s governing body, the Fond du Lac Reservation Business Committee, has already approved the agreement, but before it can take effect, the Duluth City Council has to approve it. The matter will be discussed on Friday at a special council meeting. It is expected that the pending agreement would be in effect for 10 years. If the band should decide to develop a motel or hotel at or near the site, the agreed upon $150,000 could be subject to additional payments.
The band’s casino is located on sovereign land and therefore not subject to local property taxes. Dupuis explained that while the band isn’t required to follow city code or to pay taxes, “The band has always said that we are willing to pay our fair share for services we receive from the city, like any other business. The band is also willing to adopt and enforce as band law, the city planning and zoning requirements for trust land we have in the city,” as reported by The Duluth News Tribune.
Meanwhile, the band has remained quiet regarding its plans for the Carter Hotel, which is located adjacent to the Duluth casino on a one-acre site. The band purchased the property in 2010 and sought to have the property designated as sovereign land, which would make it exempt from local property taxes like the casino. That served as the catalyst for more litigation, which the band once again prevailed. The Bureau of Indian Affairs’ decision was challenged by the city, but in light of the anticipated approval by the city council, will now cease.
When asked about the band’s plans for the Carter Hotel property once the uncertainties surrounding it dissipate, the interim band chairman said that they can now start making a plan, but to date, one hasn’t been made. Dupuis did, however, confirm that demolishing the structure, which is deteriorated and abandoned, is the first step.