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Don Barden – African American Who Became a Trailblazer in the Casino Industry


It was noted by Red Wind Casino that during the 2019 black history month that a trailblazer needs to be remembered.

On Feb 8, 2019, Red Wind Casino@redwindcasino #blackhistorymonth Red Wind would like to recognize Don Barden, an incredible African-American entrepreneur and the first black owner of a Las Vegas casino.

Did you know that Don Barden was the first African-American to own a casino in Las Vegas? Previously Barden had started a record label, a newspaper, worked in radio broadcasting, served as a city council member and conducted real estate ventures with the federal government? In 1979, Barden founded Barden Cablevision, eventually selling it to Comcast for $105 million in 1994?

The internet has had a massive impact on almost every part of the business world, with online services transforming how many organizations interact both with each other and their clients.

However, one sector which has experienced a particularly massive shift is the casino industry, with web-based services offering up a whole host of new opportunities.

Staggering growth

Moving into the online world has had a major effect on the casino industry, as many sites are now bringing a range of games directly into people’s homes or onto their mobile devices. The growth of the industry has been staggering and Grand View Research last year predicted that the entire online gambling market will be worth $102.97 billion by 2025.

Considering the huge potential of the area, a host of brands are now operating in the space and competing against each other to attract players. This means welcome offers have become all-important, with sites encouraging people to register by offering plenty of perks. The new bingo promotion from Paddy Power Bingo is a good example of this, with the welcome deal giving players access to bonus funds and free spins on a slot when they sign up.

As the industry is in such good health at the moment, it is perhaps a good time to reflect on the impact that African Americans have had within the sector – and if we’re going to do that, it is well worth considering one key name in particular.

A place in history

Don H. Barden may have passed away back in 2011, but he is always set to be remembered in the casino industry for one key reason – he was the first-ever black owner of a casino in Las Vegas.

Source: Pixabay

As the New York Times explains in the obituary published just after his death, Barden was born in Michigan in 1943 and was the ninth of 13 children. While some of his family were autoworkers, he chased his dream of becoming a business owner, opening Donnie’s Records in Ohio in the middle of the 1960s. Following that he went on to be involved in a range of different ventures, including taking up a role on a city council and even having his own TV show.

He also started a cable TV company and the system it built went on to be purchased by Comcast. The funds from that transaction were then used to open a riverboat casino in Indiana. However, his place in casino history was then cemented in 2001, when he bought Fitzgeralds in Las Vegas.

An incredible life

Barden lived an incredible life which took in a range of areas, but he is perhaps the very best example of what African Americans can achieve in the casino industry.

On June 2nd in 1997, Don Barden unveils a 75-acre casino development for Detroit’s west riverfront. The $500 million plan would include two large hotel towers with a monorail, restaurants, a theater and a boxing center.

However for various reasons, this never happened. In 1998, business mogul Don Barden tried to open a casino & amusement park in Detroit with Michael Jackson. The development was blocked. Instead, Don Barden went on to became the first Black man to own a casino in Las Vegas.

On May 19th, 1998. Don Barden and his business partner – Michael Jackson went to Namibia, Africa to hold a press conference to express his worries about children issues in the country and the potential of economical developments in the country.

The capital from the Comcast venture Barden eventually began his casino ventures in 2001 with Majestic Star Company, which included two Indiana casino boats and Fitzgerald Casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada; Tunica, Mississippi and Black Hawk, Colorado?

Barden companies would eventually earn a combined $519 million in annual revenue? In this day an age he would have been a billionaire.

The sector has been reinvigorated across the last decade or so thanks to online casinos, with their emergence creating plenty of opportunities for those with an interest in that area. With that in mind, it will be intriguing to see if others can reach the same heights that Barden managed in the months and years ahead.

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