DETROIT (AP) A federal judge ruled yesterday that the city acted improperly when it granted casino licenses to companies that campaigned for approval of gambling in the city.

U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell, who holds court in Marquette and Grand Rapids, will now accept briefs by the attorneys on what other issues need to be resolved in the case. Holmes will make a ruling on the future of Detroit”s three casinos after reviewing the briefs, which are due Feb. 22.

“Basically, what you have is three casinos in Detroit operating illegally,” said John Peebles, attorney for the tribe. “There”s no question the casinos are in limbo.”

Bell”s ruling comes after the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati last month returned the case to Bell, who twice has upheld the Detroit ordinance regarding the casino selection process. Both times, the appeals court overruled the judge.

The Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, based in the western Upper Peninsula, filed the lawsuit in 1999 before the casinos opened claiming Detroit”s ordinance was discriminatory.

The ordinance gave preference to two companies that helped support a 1996 statewide ballot measure approved by voters that allowed off-reservation gambling in the city. The measure specified that only three casinos could be built.

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