The IGRA as Protector: DOJ Weighs in on Duluth-Fond du Lac Casino Dispute

By: Tyler Fish | Guest Contributor
Theodore J. Griswold | Partner | ted.griswold@procopio.com

The U.S. Department of Justice this week submitted a cross-motion for summary judgment in City of Duluth v. National Indian Gaming Commission (D.C.). The case concerns attempts by the City of Duluth to maintain influence over economic development efforts by the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in downtown Duluth, MN. The DOJ’s cross-motion affirms NIGC’s regulatory authority and promotes one of Congress’ original intentions in passing the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act: to protect tribal gaming interests from outside influence.

Disputes regarding the Fond-du-Luth Casino facility have been ongoing since a 1986 agreement between the band and the city was found to violate IGRA in 1993. The NIGC then issued a violation notice of IGRA’s tribal “sole proprietary interest” requirements, which ensure that revenues from gaming enterprises are used to promote the general welfare and economic development of the tribe and not a third-party interests. Pursuant to NIGC’s violation notice, the band and the city amended the agreement in 1994. However, in 2011, the NIGC reviewed the 1994 amendments and again found IGRA violations from the city’s potential for undue influence over the band’s gaming operations.

In the present case, the City of Duluth has challenged NIGC’s authority to review agreements that impact gaming operations and economic development ventures in Indian Country. The DOJ’s cross-motion rightfully supports NIGC’s oversight authority to limit influence over the band’s sovereign gaming rights. In a related case, the city has brought suit directly against Fond du Lac claiming that the band’s right to enter land into trust was contractually subverted to the city’s interests in the 1986 and 1994 amended agreements. Should an agreement between a city and an Indian tribe relieve the NIGC of its oversight authority under IGRA? Can a city possess “sole discretion to disapprove” tribal trust land acquisitions? Congress created the IGRA to regulate gaming in Indian Country, but also, to protect tribal rights to generate gaming revenue free from adverse, third-party influence.

Links

https://turtletalk.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/federal-cross-motion-for-summary-judgment-in-city-of-duluth-v-nigc/

https://turtletalk.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/city-of-duluth-sues-fond-du-lac-band-over-proposed-trust-land-expansion-at-carter-hotel-property/

http://www.northlandsnewscenter.com/news/local/Duluth-files-lawsuit-against-Fond-du-Lac-Band-253654851.html

Tyler Fish is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma College of Law and has devoted his personal and professional ambitions to public service and protection of the sovereign rights of Native people and tribal governments. Before attending law school, Tyler served his tribal nation as a legislative officer and government representative in Washington, D.C. Tyler followed the footsteps of his grandfather by enlisting in the United States Marine Corps. During six years of service, and a tour of duty in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Tyler concurrently earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology with minors in International Studies and Political Science. Tyler is a Gates Millennial Scholar and an alumnus of the Morris K. Udall Native American Congressional Internship program.

Ted is head of the Native American Law practice group and primary editor for the Blogging Circle. Connect with Ted at ted.griswold@procopio.com and 619.515.3277.