Majestic Star II, Former Trump Casino Riverboat, Being Renovated for New Life

The Majestic Star II casino riverboat that was formerly called the Trump Casino and Trump Princess and was docked in Gary, In., on Lake Michigan is being renovated.

Majestic Star Trump Casino Indiana
The former Trump Casino and Majestic Star II, an Indiana riverboat casino, is pulled into Sarnia Harbor in Canada. The vessel is reportedly undergoing a renovation for its next use. (Image: Boatnerd)

An online publication called Boatnerd that covers news about vessels in the Great Lakes reports that the Majestic Star II was recently tugged into Sarnia Harbor in the Canadian province of Ontario. Strategically located in the center of the Great Lakes, Sarnia is considered one of the world’s busiest inland waterways.

The harbor is also a major port for shipbuilding, repairs, and renovations. The Majestic Star II is scheduled to remain in Sarnia for six months. The Majestic Star II’s former sister riverboat — the Majestic Star — remains berthed in Wisconsin’s Sturgeon Bay. But local officials in Sarnia Harbor say that the ship is also expected to arrive in Ontario in the coming months.

Both vessels have switched hands since their casino operations shuttered in April 2021. They are currently owned by a private investment firm that is heavily invested in seaway transportation.

Majestic Star Casinos

A company called Majestic Holdco controlled by Indiana business magnate Don Barden opened the original Majestic Star in June 1996. Donald Trump and his Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, later Trump Entertainment Resorts following several bankruptcies, opened the Trump Princess next door on Lake Michigan that same year.

The Trump Princess soon after opening was rebranded to Trump Casino. Majestic Holdco acquired the Trump Casino license and boat in 2005 for $253 million.

Indiana-based Spectacle Entertainment agreed to acquire Majestic Holdco and its two Lake Michigan casinos in November 2018. The terms of the acquisition that was completed in March 2019 were not made public, but Spectacle’s interest wasn’t about the boats but the state-issued gaming licenses they possessed on board.

After Indiana lawmakers passed legislation allowing for land-based casinos, Spectacle pounced at the opportunity to acquire the Majestic Holdco gaming concession. Spectacle opted to relocate the license for a new brick-and-mortar casino about five miles inland.

Groundbreaking on the $300 million casino resort occurred in early 2020 as a state probe of Spectacle was initiated at the Indiana Gaming Commission. The inquiry concluded that several former Spectacle execs had bribed state lawmakers to pass the land-based casino law in 2005.

Spectacle was fined $530,000 and ordered to separate itself from its founder, Rod Ratcliff. Spectacle subsequently partnered with Hard Rock International. Hard Rock Northern Indiana opened in May 2021.

Depreciating Assets

The Majestic Star and Majestic Star II casino boats were each constructed for nearly $50 million. At the height of their operations, the two floating vessels housed over 1,600 slot machines and 60 live dealer table games.

After the Majestic Star and Majestic Star II casinos shuttered in April 2021, the boats were put on the market with asking prices of $6 million each.

Demand for riverboat casinos has been reduced in recent decades, as lawmakers in Louisiana, Illinois, and Iowa have also eased their water requirements to allow casinos to be built above land. Mississippi remains the lone riverboat-only casino state.

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