Many may never have heard of him, but Don Barden is one of the more unsung pioneers in African American history and one who, for a short while at least, even attended the HBSU establishment of Ohio’s Central State University. Barden was also a prime example of rising from unpromising beginnings to use all the entrepreneurial skills needed to build a huge business empire. 

As we’ll see, a great deal of his wealth came from an audacious move into casino ownership. So if he were alive today it’s very possible that he would also be involved in online casinos, particularly as Barden understood what people wanted from their entertainment and was not afraid to be a pioneer. Many of these online platforms that are popular today, such as Casumo Casino, share this real understanding of what appeals to players and offer a wide range of different games including slots, roulette, blackjack and video poker. 

To start at the very beginning, Don Hamilton Barden was born on 20 December 1943 in Detroit, Michigan. Always an inquisitive and active child, by high school he was captain of both the basketball and football teams. 

His time at university, however, was short-lived as he found the cost of being there impossible to afford. So he decided to drop out and took a series of jobs from washing up in restaurant kitchens to being a plumber. Throughout that time, he had his eyes firmly fixed on the future and was gradually putting cash aside.

By the time he’d saved up $500, it was time to make his move. He bought a small record store in Lorain, Ohio to take advantage of the new music scene that was emerging in the mid-1960s. He also began booking bands for concerts, and this led to Barden setting up a small record label as well as a public relations firm.

Despite all this success, he still felt he wasn’t earning enough so he made a move into real estate development. By buying up buildings and leasing them to the US Government, his income increased; especially so when he sold the buildings on. 

In the background, his real ambition was to open a casino in his home city of Detroit but at the time getting a license to do this was impossible. Instead, he found a legal loophole: in 1995, he set up a riverboat casino operating out of Gary, Indiana and set his sights on a far bigger prize. This came to be in 2002 when he successfully bid for and took over three Fitzgeralds casinos in Tunica, Mississippi, Black Hawk Colorado and downtown Las Vegas.

At its height, Barden’s casino empire employed 4,000 people and had an annual turnover of $347 million. However, a combination of fierce competition and a major recession meant that this was a success that couldn’t be sustained and in 2009 the business filed for bankruptcy.Just two years later, Barden fell seriously ill and died at the age of 67. But he left behind him a strong legacy, as well as a shining example of just how far determination and vision can take you.