Former Employee’s Lawsuit Places Eldorado’s Gaming License in Jeopardy

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PRESS RELEASE (6/10/2013) – The Eldorado Resort and Casino in Shreveport, Louisiana and several key employees are defendants in a $63 million dollar federal lawsuit from a former employee. Mark Bolding served as an executive casino host for the riverboat casino from August, 2010 to January, 2013 when he was terminated for economic concerns. Bolding alleges that during his employment he was subject to an assault, a continuous hostile working environment, racial discrimination, and retaliation. The shocking details came to light in a lawsuit filed in May 16, 2013 in the US District Court Western District of Louisiana. The most shocking allegation in the  complaint is of a 2011 New Year’s Eve party given by the Eldorado for its VIP guests. According to Bolding, the party was a replica of the Jim Crow era, Cotton Club in Harlem, New York. The club is as well known for launching the careers of many jazz legends including Lena Horne and Duke Ellington as it is for it Jim Crow policy of not admitting any African-Americans into the venue. The policy was strictly enforced with mob enforcers under the watchful eye of the club’s owner Owney Madden. The African-American employees would have to enter and exit the club through the back door. The decor was that of a stately southern plantation hence the name the Cotton Club and it’s performers depicted as plantation slaves or exotic African savages. The club was one of the most successful prohibition establishments that lined the avenue known as Jungle Alley, in reference to the fact that white patrons could attend and watch the African-American chorus lines of dancers or listen to the jazz music of the day played by the African-American musicians without having to socialize with them because of the clubs’ strict ‘whites only’ policy . According to entertainer and frequent visitor, Jimmy Durante, “It isn’t necessary to mix with colored people if you don’t feel like it.”

Bolding, who is African-American, claims that shortly before the party he was summoned and ask to play the role of a greeter for the event. In the hand bills of the original club the door greeter was always depicted as a minstrel in blackface. When Bolding asserted his being offended by the request on the grounds of the racist depictions and stereotypes he claims that he was told by Eldorado’s Player Development manager  Kirsten Thomas-Demoss, that they were aware of the stereotypes and that other African-American employees were participating. When Bolding objected again he claims that he was told by Thomas-DeMoss, “You have no choice.”, which he took to mean he would face a negative reprucusiion as a result of not participating as the greeter. Bolding says that shortly after he greeted and sat the guests, he was summoned to the office of Eldorado’s general manager, Mike Whitemaine. He claims Whitemaine asked him about his issues with the party and that he once again spoke about segregation and Jim Crow. Bolding said Whitemaine asked could he count on him (Bolding) to play the role of door greeter again at the party later that evening. When Bolding asked why Whitemaine would ask him to participate in something he was offended, embarrassed and humiliated by, Bolding contends Whitemaines reply was, “Because I want to see you do it.” With that according to Bolding, he was called to the party shortly before its second seating to greet and seat the casino’s guests. “There are periods in our country’s history that show us at our very best and there are periods where our treatment towards each other was less than consistent with the ideals we hold as American or even humane. The key is that we recognize those periods and learn from them lest we repeat them endlessly in a cycle of hatred and intolerance that has cost this country so much in terms of misery, damaged psyche’s and lost lives. I do not revel in the Trail of Tears. I do not find joy in the internment camps of World War II. I am proud of America, yet I am embarrassed by many of the things we have done and continue to do to each other. There are perceptions we have toward each other. On that night the Eldorado revealed the perception it had not only toward me but those people who resemble me or better yet who do not resemble the sort of people deemed worthy of respect and dignity.  I doubt very seriously that I can be mistaken as a monkey, ape, coon or any of the disgusting stereotypes placed upon those people during that era and still today. But the way the Eldorado perceives me says far more about them as an organization than it will ever say about me as an American and a human being.” Bolding is quoted.

The complaint also includes charges of multiple retaliation, libel, deprivation of rights and multiple charges of conspiracy to deprive rights. These allegations come at a very critical time in terms of the Shreveport-Bossier City gaming market’s summer season. The market has flattened out in recent years partly due to the fact of the emergence and proximity of Native American casinos to the Dallas/Ft. Worth feeder market. The Eldorado has long held a strong number two position in the market but the recent addition of another casino to the market challenges that long held position. If found guilty ElDorado’s ability to maintain the suitability requirements of its license agreement with the Louisiana Gaming Board could be called into question, jeopardizing the casino’s Louisiana operation.

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