Don Barden: African-American Casino Executive
by Bayer Mack
Don Hamilton Barden was the only African American owner of a
national gambling company in the United States.
The son of auto workers and the great-grandson of a freed slave,
Mr. Barden rose from poverty to become owner of one of America’s
largest black-owned businesses, with casinos, automobile sales,
music and cable television.
Mr. Barden began his business empire at the age of 21 with $500
in savings, opening a record store in Lorain, Ohio.
Later, he founded Barden Cablevision, a cable television
franchise that became the only cable system serving Detroit and
In 1995 he sold his Detroit cable franchise to Comcast for $100
million, making it possible for him to open his Majestic Star, a
riverboat casino in Gary, Indiana.
Mr. Barden grew his riverboat casino into the Majestic Star
Casino Company, which operated casinos in Indiana, Colorado,
Mississippi and Nevada.
In 2000, he became the first black owner of a Las Vegas casino
with his purchase of Fitzgeralds, eventually selling that
business to Comcast for more than $100 million.
In 2010, the magazine Black Enterprise ranked Mr. Barden’s
company as the tenth highest grossing black-owned company in the nation, with annual revenues of over $400 million.