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Detroit's Don Barden Awarded Pennsylvania Gaming License3 January 2007
Late last month, on his 63rd Birthday, Detroit casino developer Don Barden was awarded a license to build a $450 million casino in Pittsburgh's North Shore. In total, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board awarded 11 permanent slots licenses. Barden's PITG Gaming LLC (PITG) license was one of five slots licenses given to standalone parlors, while the remaining six licenses are earmarked for Pennsylvania's horse-racing tracks. The PITG license allows up to 5,000 slot machines, making it one of the three largest operators in Pennsylvania. Barden has said that his facility will initially have 3000 slots, and will slowly add additional slots as allowed under the state law.
Prior to the board's decision, Barden was largely viewed as the underdog to get the Pittsburg license. PITG was selected over Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises' Harrah's Station Square Casino and St. Louis-based Isle of Capri Casinos. Isle of Capri had teamed with the Pittsburg Penguins in a plan that would have fully paid for the cost of a new arena for the team. The group promised $290 million toward the cost of an arena, while Barden's proposal included a yearly commitment of $7.5 Million over 30 years.
With the construction of the new casino, Barden will become one of the most influential businessmen in Pittsburg. His flagship "Majestic Star Casino", which he aggressively expects to be completed by March 2008, will be located just west of the Carnegie Science Center. In addition to the new casino, which will be his largest, Barden owns five properties in Las Vegas, Mississippi, Colorado, and two in Gary, Ind.
Barden began his casino career focus in December 1993 when he pursued one of two gaming licenses at Buffington Harbor in Gary, Ind. In June 1996, PITG and Trump Indiana opened dockside facilities to take advantage of gaming opportunities in the Chicago area market, now the third largest gaming market in the U.S. behind Las Vegas and Atlantic City.
In 1997, Barden competed for one of the three Detroit casino licenses, but was not awarded a license by the city of Detroit. In December 2001, Barden's company purchased the Fitzgerald-brand properties in Las Vegas, Tunica, Miss., (30 miles south of Memphis) and Black Hawk, Colo.(35 miles west of Denver). This acquisition gave the Detroit businessman a presence in downtown Las Vegas.
On December 21, 2005, the company took another step forward by acquiring the Trump facilities at Buffington Harbor. He renamed what was formerly Trump Indiana's casino vessel as the "Majestic Star II" and Trump Indiana's 300-room hotel as the "Majestic Star Hotel".
In 2005, Barden held a small ownership interest in Greektown Casino in Detroit, but quickly sold his interest in Greektown to the casino's majority owner, the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.
Collectively, Barden's various holdings include approximately 5,800 slot machines, 165 table games, 21 poker tables and 1,441 hotel rooms. The Pittsburg license will allow Barden to almost double the size of his operation, and will provide a major flagship property that will enable him and the company to be taken seriously with respect to growth in future communities.
Barden plans to involve several people with Detroit roots in his newest casino project, including Smokey Robinson, and Jerome Bettis in the ownership structure.
The city of Detroit and state of Michigan should be very proud of Barden's success. It is unclear what his next expansion move will be, but it appears certain that his casino enterprise will continue to grow and have a positive impact on the U.S. casino gaming industry.