On the agenda for next week’s Duluth City Council meeting is a resolution requesting the state legislature “amend state gambling laws to provide for the operation of a for-profit casino at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center or other location within Duluth.” (Update: Councilor Howie Hanson has told the Duluth News Tribune his proposal will likely be tabled and later taken up at a committee-of-the-whole meeting.)
Here’s the document text:
Purchasing and Licensing Committee
Resolution requesting the state legislature amend state gambling laws to provide for the operation of a for-profit casino at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.
By Councilor Hanson:
Whereas, the city and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (“Band”) have been in a protracted dispute regarding previously agreed upon revenues from the Fond du Luth Casino; and
Whereas, neither the Band or federal officials have been willing to renegotiate the existing agreement or replace the agreement; and
Whereas, every resident and business is now paying a fee to address the loss of casino revenue, essentially a “casino revenue replacement fee”; and
Whereas, the Band is not currently paying for city services including, but not limited to, infrastructure, police protection, fire protection, and tourism promotion; and
Whereas, the city council foremost desires a resolution to the dispute with the Band, but additionally acknowledges that other revenue earning opportunities need to be explored; and
Whereas, the city council recognizes that Minnesota’s state tribal gaming compacts currently provide for no revenue sharing for the state or local communities, which is in contrast to other states with gaming and the revenue sharing is authorized by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
Therefore, be it resolved, the Duluth City Council hereby requests city administration continue to work to reinstate or replace the revenue sharing agreement with the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
Further resolved, that should no agreement with the Band be reached by the end of 2014, the city council requests that the state legislature amend state gaming laws to provide for the operation of a casino at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center or other location within Duluth, by the city in partnership with a nonprofit, business, or another tribe.
Further resolved, the city council requests the state legislature reopen the state’s tribal gaming compacts, which are below market nationally, and redirect negotiate revenue sharing monies toward infrastructure improvements for local communities.
Of course, this is not the first time the notion of a DECC-operated casino has been trotted out as an option. Dan Russell, the DECC’s executive director, told the Duluth News Tribune in January 2012 that he had discussed the notion with city administration.
Russell laid out several possible options on how a casino could be worked into the mix of attractions at the DECC. He looked at converting the upper bowl of the old DECC arena into a second level that could accommodate a casino. He also considered the possibility of gaming above Pioneer Hall and building a skywalk to Canal Park. He also explored the idea of converting the William A. Irvin into a floating casino.
But the most attractive option in Russell ’s eyes would involve expanding the DECC’s footprint by buying property on the opposite side of Minnesota Slip.
This property had been considered for the possible construction of a ramp to reduce parking headaches in Canal Park, as well as to provide overflow parking for the DECC. Conceptual plans called for the street level of the structure to be occupied by an anchor tenant, with four levels of parking built atop. Such a ramp, with a skywalk across Minnesota Slip connecting it to the DECC, could provide 537 parking spaces and 73,000 square feet for an anchor business.
“It would be the perfect size for a very upscale casino. It could be the most ideal location for a casino in northern Minnesota if not in all of Minnesota,” Russell said, pointing not only to the site’s proximity to the DECC but to the number of hotels in Canal Park. A casino at that location also would make the up-front expense of a parking ramp easier to justify.
“There probably couldn’t be a better anchor tenant,” Russell said.