Casino quagmire 

As gamblers pack Detroit’s casinos and Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick makes announcements about forging permanent casino development deals, the future of the city’s gaming halls is more in question than ever. U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell this week ordered Detroit to prove why the current casino development agreement and three casino licenses shouldn’t be declared unlawful and void. Bell’s move follows a January decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. The appeals court determined the deal forged between former Mayor Dennis Archer and the three original casino owners was illegal, because the owners were given preferential treatment

That was a major victory for the tiny Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, who claimed they were locked out of the bidding process. Now Bell, who has consistently ruled in favor of Detroit, must make a decision that jibes with the higher court’s findings. Bell’s order suggests one option is an injunction against all gaming in Detroit. A hearing is set for May 1 in Grand Rapids, where Detroit’s lawyers must convince the judge the city’s cash cows shouldn’t be shut down. “We’re waiting with bated breath for the city to explain to the judge how the casinos can continue to operate under agreements the court has determined to be void,” says Conly Schulte, attorney for the Lac Vieux tribe.

Several things could happen. If the judge rules in favor of the Lac Vieux tribe, the casino contracts will go out for bids, with constitutional protections for fairness in place.

In contrast, the city will argue that development plans for the existing casinos, with the existing owners, should proceed as planned. “The whole purpose of the casinos in the first place was to generate jobs,” and halting business at the casinos would jeopardize 8,000 employees and the $100 million in taxes the casinos send to city coffers, says mayoral spokesman Bob Berg.

Lisa M. Collins is a Metro Times staff writer. E-mail

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