Donald Trump’s ownership of a Gary, Indiana casino more than 10 years ago is getting renewed attention as the state prepares for the May 3 presidential primary.
Trump was awarded one of two state licenses to build Lake Michigan casinos in the early 1990s. The Trump Casino later filed for bankruptcy and was taken over in 2005 by the Majestic Star, Gary’s other casino.
A 2004 report by the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment at Indiana University found that Trump’s casino had contributed $75 million to Gary and $833,381 in sponsorships and contributions to community groups since its 1996 opening. Gary also twice hosted Trump’s Miss USA beauty pageant.
“Trump has been a positive addition to the community,” the report concluded, adding the casino “provides well-paying jobs with good benefits as well as economic diversity in a time when steel mill and manufacturing jobs are declining.”
Trump’s bid for one of the two Gary licenses after the state legalized riverboat gambling was actually rejected by the city in a non-binding decision before the Indiana Gaming Commission endorsed his effort. The state commission chose cable TV mogul Don Barden of Detroit to operate a casino as part of a joint venture with Trump to redevelop an industrial site where their riverboat casinos would dock.
An early dispute over the price of the land they shared and casino management led the Gaming Commission to threaten to withhold their licenses.
Trump’s casino subsidiary, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2004, seeking to restructure $1.8 billion in debt. Trump, who also had been trying to open a new casino in French Lick, sold his stake in the Gary casino venture to Barden’s company for $253 million in November 2005.
The combined casinos, called Majestic Star Casinos, are Gary’s third-largest employer, with more than 1,000 workers.
Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. Email: .