Barden sues Indian tribe - Tuesday 12th of July 2005

Casino owner Don H. Barden is suing the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians claiming hes owed half of an $80 million settlement the tribe negoiatiated with Detroits three casinos.

The 500-member Lac Vieux tribe, based in Michigans Upper Peninsula, accepted the settlement as part of a 1997 federal suit it brought against the city of Detroit and the Michigan Gaming Control Board.

The tribe sought to have Detroits three casino licenses rebid -- claiming it was squeezed out of the bidding process -- but recently agreed to a court-approved settlement.

In Bardens lawsuit, filed this week in Wayne County Circuit Court, the Detroit entrepreneur states he was approached by the tribe in 2001 to invest $500 million into a new Detroit casino if a federal court ruled one of the citys casino license must be rebid.

As the tribes lead negotiator, Barden said he was to receive 50 percent of any payouts from the lawsuit challenge.

Attempts to contact the tribe over the lawsuit were unsuccessful.

The U.S. Court of Appeals determined that Detroits process for awarding the three casino licenses was unconstitutional and ordered the city and developers not to build permanent casinos while the case was settled.

After receiving an initial payment of $1.5 million, Barden claims he was recently notified by a Lac Vieux attorney that the tribe would not pay the balance owed, claiming its previous agreement had expired.

In his suit, Barden claims the settlement was approved prior to the agreements alleged expiration date.

"The tribe essentially wants to take the money and run," Barden spokeswoman Darci E. McConnell said Wednesday.

Barden, chairman of The Majestic Star Casino LLC, which operates four casinos in Indiana, Mississippi and Colorado, could not be contacted Wednesday for comment.

The Detroit resident is also chairman of Barden Development Inc., which operates Fitzgeralds Las Vegas, a casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Barden recently filed an application with the Michigan Gaming Control Board to become a part-owner in Detroits Greektown Casino. The application is still pending.

Efforts to contact Conly Schulte, an attorney representing the Lac Vieux tribe, were unsuccessful Wednesday in an attempt to get reaction to the lawsuit.

Schulte recently convinced a federal court in Detroit to dismiss a similar lawsuit filed by Barden citing the courts lack of jurisdiction.

But a deposition filed with Bardens recent suit shows that former Lac Vieux chairman Richard McGeshick Sr. recently stated that Barden was the tribes lead negotiator and was to receive 50 percent of any payouts.

Jake Miklojcik, president of Michigan Consultants, a Lansing-based casino and economic development firm, said Bardens lawsuit is likely to be settled out of court.

"Im not picking sides here, but you almost never see a (court judgment) in these types of cases," Miklojcik said.

"Both sides would likely settle and move on to build casinos elsewhere," he said.

Last month, Lac Vieux and three other Michigan tribes announced plans to build an off-reservation casino in Romulus pending government approval. But Miklojcik said the project could take years to win approval and build.

A hearing on Bardens new lawsuit against the Lac Vieux tribe is scheduled for next Thursday before Wayne County Circuit Judge Gershwin Drain.

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