Don Barden = Don Quixote?

Written by Bill Toland on .

Have you guys seen the latest renderings for Don Barden's casino on the North Shore?

The big box on the right is the garage. The little box is the casino. Instead of a boat slip and decorative brick, the casino will be surrounded by native cement.

... It's been a week since Don Barden proposed the changes to the casino. But you know what? Pittsburgh still isn't cool with it:

 "So now the fancy brick promenade outside the new Majestic Star Casino won't be so majestic, or so star-like. In fact, there won't be any bricks at all -- just some cheap concrete. And the upscale outdoor crosswalks in the original plan also are gone, set to be replaced by some cheap 'native grasses' -- or maybe some native weeds if things keep coming apart. In any case, unless Dan Onorato slips Majestic Star Casino owner Don Barden some landscaping cash out of the overflowing funds from the drink tax, it looks like the Majestic's grand entrance will be concrete and grass, like at Pizza Hut."

Fine, but let's not drag Pizza Hut into this mess. The all-you-can-eat lunch buffet is about as grand and majestic as you can get for $4.99. (Drink not included.)

... " 'The community attributes are disappearing. That's a shame. Whether you like gambling or not, this is a monopoly license and I feel there should be some giveback to the community in terms of amenities, and that's what's disappearing,' said Anne Swager, co-chair of the gaming task force that reviewed all three bids for the city's lone slots license. The issue came to a head last week when representatives for Mr. Barden presented plans to the city planning commission to delay construction of the 1,000-seat outdoor amphitheater, boat docks and access paths for three years and to scale back other elements, including the amount of trees and shrubs on the riverfront and the amount of brick on the promenade."

... "Unless the picture improves soon, we might have to change its name from the Majestic Star to the Mirage."


... The people have spoken, via letters to the P-G:

"The impact of the success of the casino is more far-reaching than just Mr. Barden and the casino itself. How can he realistically follow through with financial commitments to the Hill District, the Penguins and others regionally if he can't live up to his original commitments just to build the casino?"

At what point is Don Barden just "revising" his initial plans, and at what point do we conclude that maybe he's been tilting at windmills from the very outset?

Dispatches from the east 

"A $5.82 billion takeover of Penn National Gaming Inc. has been called off due a declining purchase price, the casino operator said Thursday. The buyers, Fortress Investment Group LLC and private equity firm Centerbridge Partners LP, had valued the deal at $67-per-share, but since the buyout was first announced last June, Penn shares have sagged 44 per cent, recently bottoming at $28.20. [Wyomissing, Pa.-based] Penn National said it was clear the takeover wouldn't be completed without ‘significant and lengthy litigation,' and also said a re-negotiated, reduced purchase price ‘was not a viable option.'"

Louis DeNaples, via Steve Klaver, The Associated Press... Your weekly DeNaples update:

"Some news reporters subpoenaed over alleged leaks from a grand jury investigation of Mount Airy Casino Resort owner Louis DeNaples said Thursday that they were contacted by people who wanted to confirm their cell phone numbers or names. At least some of those calls were made by an aide to state Sen. Robert Mellow, D-Lackawanna, the Senate minority leader. At least two others came from someone who pretended to work for a Pittsburgh newspaper."

... At least Don Barden's casino is under construction. Out in Philadelphia, it looks like the two waterfront casinos will be open by 2011 -- at the earliest.  

Odds and ends

Slots still aren't legal in Ohio, but keno machines soon will be ... Are slots finally coming to Maryland? ... Penn National hopes so, as it's scouting for land in Maryland ... Delaware's long flirtation with legal sports bookkeeping is over ... Indiana is changing its rules to encourage more traffic from organized gambling tours ... Casinos aren't the great investment they used to be ... Casino workers should be insulted by their wages, says the Press of Atlantic City.

The Trib says Pennsylvania is off-base in targeting the bars and social clubs that have illegal poker machines:

"The desperate criminals running the Bloomfield Music & Bocci Club in Pittsburgh and the Luzerne Volunteer Fire Department's social club in Fayette County have felt the lash of law enforcement. What vile crimes brought the raiding parties of the state's Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (LCE) down upon them? Officially, i.e., legally, they were caught operating illegal video poker machines or making excessive payments on the legal machines they are allowed to operate. In fact, the two clubs were guilty of a much greater crime against the state -- competing with slots casinos for gambling revenue."

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