A federal appeals court Friday reversed a lower-court ruling that ordered the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians to pay Duluth some $13.5 million in rent for its Fond-du-Luth casino in downtown Duluth. It’s the second ruling in as many months in favor of the band’s position that it should not be required to share gaming proceeds with the city.

The ruling from the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the 1988 act of Congress that lays the legal framework for Indian gaming intended that the “primary beneficiary” of the gaming be the tribe itself. Friday’s decision was the second time the federal appeals court has reversed and remanded the U.S. District Court in the case.

It’s also one of a series of rulings that have been made in three separate lawsuits stemming from the legal fight that arose between Duluth and the Fond du Lac band after the collapse of a 1994 agreement to share gaming proceeds.

“It’s disappointing and frustrating,” said Duluth City Attorney Gunnar Johnson, saying there are “hundreds” of agreements between municipalities and Indian bands to share gaming proceeds across the nation. The city of Duluth has spent millions of dollars on road repairs that it expected to pay for with gaming proceeds; at least $10.5 million of bond payments remain on those repairs, said Johnson.

No one from the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa was immediately available for comment.

Matt McKinney