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MGM Grand Asks US Appeals Court to Throw out Tribe’s Claims

The MGM Grand Detroit Casino is asking a federal appeals court to quickly dismiss an Indian tribe’s lawsuit over the way the city’s three casino franchises were awarded.

Lawyers for the casino, owned by Las Vegas-based MGM Mirage Inc., sent a motion for delivery Tuesday to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati seeking to be dismissed from the 7-year-old lawsuit by the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians.

Claiming Detroit’s 1997 casino selection process was unfair, the 430-member tribe sued the three casinos and the city that year. The tribe operates its own casino in the Upper Peninsula village of Watersmeet.

Recently, the tribe reached a $94 million settlement with current and former owners of the Greektown and MotorCity casinos. Participants said that agreement cleared the way for the appeals court to lift its order blocking the casinos from expanding at new, permanent locations that are to include hotels.

The expansion has been a key part of Detroit’s development plans. Even with smaller, temporary sites without hotels, the casinos took in $1.13 billion in revenues last year.

The Lac Vieux tribe’s main claim was that the city’s selection rules gave unfair advantage to Greektown and MotorCity because their owners backed a 1996 ballot proposal to legalize casino gambling in the city.

But the Lac Vieux tribe also sued MGM Grand, which did not get special consideration in the process of awarding the three casino franchises.

Tuesday’s motion asks the appeals court to summarily dismiss the tribe’s appeal of a 2002 ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell in MGM Grand’s favor.

In its motion, MGM Grand said the appeals court’s dismissal of the Lac Vieux tribe’s claims against it would have "the potential to simplify this case and to clarify issues for oral argument."

The rest of the case — the tribe’s claims against the MotorCity and Greektown casinos and the city — essentially is resolved.

In an out-of-court deal, former Greektown Casino investors Ted Gatzaros and Jim Papas agreed to pay the tribe $15 million. On April 9, Bell approved a tentative deal in which Greektown and MotorCity would pay the tribe $39.5 million each.

Bell said then that the partial settlement lessened the Lac Vieux’s claims against MGM Grand because the tribe already had received "substantial relief" from the other casino operators.

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