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Don Barden: From A School Dropout To Becoming The First African American To Own Chain Of Casinos


His magic wand propelled him to become the first African American to own a casino chain in Las Vegas by focusing on businesses that required less capital to succeed. Despite several setbacks in breaking into a market dominated by white businessmen, one of such areas was casino operations.

Don Barden, a business mogul, stated in his book of lessons that when the Fitzgerald casino deal was presented to him, he knew he would need little effort to make his name as an operator in that space.

According to Black History Month, Don Barden had the fundamental structure and management in place to leverage his vision. It was no surprise when Barden made $347 million in profits from his casino chain in 2002.

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He removed the barriers that prevented African Americans from entering the casino industry. Prior to breaking into the casino markets, Barden had established himself as one of the most successful African-American businessmen. He grew up in a low-income family of 13 children in Detroit, Michigan.

Barden was the ninth child born on December 20, 1943. His parents, Milton and Hortense, instilled in him the value of hard work from an early age. Barden was in the spotlight from a young age when he played basketball for his school. In his first year at Central State University in Ohio, he dropped out. Because money was an issue, the expectation was that he would work to raise funds and then continue his education later.

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However, he used the money he had saved to start his first business, which was worth $500 on the first day.

He began to break even with his business and shifted his focus to hosting concerts and running a record label.

Despite earning enough to keep his body and soul together, it was the real estate business that changed the dynamics for Barden. He was quoted as saying that he made millions of dollars in the real estate industry. This is because he received an army contract and a property sale business, which increased his revenue.

Barden was very interested in the media. He co-founded the Lorain County Times and a public relations firm. Entering the media industry sparked an additional interest in radio and politics. As his knowledge of the media expanded, he ventured into cable television, where he operated a few television stations. He arranged for African-American entrepreneurs to own cable networks in Lorain.

Barden, undeterred by his accomplishments, began planning his entry into the casino market in 1993. When the State of Indiana granted permission for such operations, he joined the President of Riverboat Casinos to run a casino.

Barden made his first foray into the gambling world in 1993. When Indiana legalized riverboat casinos, he partnered with President Riverboat Casinos to launch operations. When this partnership fell through, he sold his shares in the cable television network to open the Majestic Star in Indiana in 1996.

He made several attempts to open casinos in his hometown of Detroit, including one with Michael Jackson, but none of them were successful. With tenacity and determination to succeed in the casino industry, Barden made the move to Las Vegas in 2002. When the Fitzgerald casino’s managers declared bankruptcy, he saw an opportunity.

He bought the casino chain with $14 million after raising $135 million from financial institutions and individuals.

Barden did not only write about his gambling and business successes, but he also invested heavily in emerging technologies.

He was the driving force behind the use of digital voting machines and video jukeboxes.

He died on May 19, 2011, but his legacy as an African-American entrepreneur lives on. In 1992 and 2003, he was named Company of the Year by Black Enterprise. He was named one of the 40 Most Powerful African Americans in Business in 2010.


Written by How Africa News

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