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Barden Expands 'Majestic' Empire

13 December 2000

Last week, Detroit businessman Don Barden announced that his company, -Majestic Investors, LLC, will acquire casinos in three of the five top casino markets: Las Vegas, Nevada; Tunica, Mississippi, and Central City, Colorado. The three casinos are all currently owned by Fitzgeralds Gaming Corp., a struggling casino that just filed for bankruptcy protection. The company's Las Vegas property, the Irish-themed "Fitzgerald's," is located in downtown Las Vegas. The acquisition will require the approval of state gaming regulators in all three states and could take a year to complete.

The acquisition will give the Majestic Star Casino, located in Gary, Indiana, the ability to do the same type of cross marketing that other Las Vegas companies are using to promote their midwest properties. This means that Mr. Barden will be able to have players at the Majestic Star Casino earn credits and win trips to his Las Vegas property - a technique that has been very successful for the MGM Grand Detroit Casino and the MotorCity Casino.

Amid the flurry of press reports, many of the national reporters noted that Mr. Barden is the only black casino owner and now is the highest ranking black person in the casino industry. This lead some to speculate that Mr. Barden might make an effort to target African-American customers. Black Entertainment Television creator, Robert Johnson, who currently sits on the Hilton Hotels Board of Directors, previously has talked about building a Las Vegas casino that would "target the black market."

To his credit, Don Barden dismissed this whole notion in an interview with the Las Vegas Review Journal. "I don't know that ethnicity plays a role in the operation of the casino," Barden noted. "To sell hamburgers or anything based on ethnicity, I don't know if that's a good concept."

One of the terrific aspects of casino gaming is that it is one of the very few places that people of different races interact in a friendly environment that helps break down the color barrier. Our society needs more of this, not less. Mr. Barden is wise in taking an inclusive approach - rather than being exclusive. He even suggested that he may keep the existing Irish theme and have some fun with it.

Keep an eye on the Fitzgerald property. If Mr. Barden is successful in righting the ship, a lot of people will take notice. Given his vision and tenacity, it is my bet that if anyone can make the Fitzgerald a success, the Majestic team can. From there, Mr. Barden's next move is certain to be one of the Las Vegas strip properties.

David Waddell
David Waddell is an attorney for Regulatory Management Counselors, P.C. (RMC), which assists businesses in navigating the legislative, regulatory and licensing systems governing Michigan’s commercial and tribal casino industries. He is the co-author of The State of Michigan Gaming Law Legal Resource Book and one of the founders of The Michigan Gaming Newsletter.

David Waddell Websites:

www.michigangaming.com
David Waddell
David Waddell is an attorney for Regulatory Management Counselors, P.C. (RMC), which assists businesses in navigating the legislative, regulatory and licensing systems governing Michigan’s commercial and tribal casino industries. He is the co-author of The State of Michigan Gaming Law Legal Resource Book and one of the founders of The Michigan Gaming Newsletter.

David Waddell Websites:

www.michigangaming.com