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12/22/2005
Barden plans for expansion at Buffington

Gary - It's been less than two months since Don Barden of Majestic Star Casino LLC bought Donald Trump's casino, but the casino mogul already has big plans for Gary. 

In addition to combining the two casinos that share a dock at Buffington Harbor, Barden said he plans to build an entertainment center, a convention space and another hotel.

He offered few other details, but said the buyout will benefit the area because one leader instead of two will push decisions forward.

"This will be much more profitable to have one decision-maker," Barden said.

The two casino owners were at odds over buyout negotiations for three years, but they closed the deal after Barden agreed to buy the neighboring casino from Trump for $253 million.

Now one massive casino can finally serve as a destination, Gary Mayor Scott King said.

The casinos' proximity to Gary/Chicago International Airport will help bring extra capital to the city, and King said he intends to aggressively seek funding and development opportunities from the RDA and other major Gary entities.

"Now that he's consolidating the venues, we think it will free more capital," King said.

The developments would materialize in the next two to three years, Barden said, speaking at the acquisition celebration at his casino Wednesday night after he left the memorial service for his brother, Milton Barden Jr., who died Friday.

There may be sad news ahead for employees of the Majestic Casinos as well, Barden said.

He said he planned to analyze the needs of the two casinos, now called the Majestic Star Casino and the Majestic Star Casino II.  Since he won't need any duplicate players, he said, he will make some crucial employment decisions by the start of the new year.

Despite the nervousness felt by some employees, the Rev. Jesse Jackson was on hand to calm fears and to offer hope for the Gary casino.

"There's so much history and portrait to this place," he said.  "This is America's future."

By Danielle Braff 
Post-Tribune star writer



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