Coast Casinos Reopen Following Storm Threat - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

07/11/05

Coast Casinos Reopen Following Storm Threat

The coast's economic engine is once again running on all cylinders.

Harrison County casinos were allowed to re-open Monday morning following a 33 hour storm closure.

Treasure Bay was among the first casinos to reopen just after 9am. All Harrison County casinos were up and running again by noon. But it's not quite as easy as taking down the boards and turning on the lights.

Casino Row stands undamaged by Hurricane Dennis. Shutting down for the approaching storm was a wise bet.

Re-opening after a storm gets a littler easier with each one.

"It went extremely smooth. We feel very lucky that Dennis chose to come through so quickly and get out of town. So, we're happy for that," said the Isle of Capri's Rich Westfall.

While some Beau Rivage employees removed the last of the plywood, others welcomed the first of the post-hurricane guests. The Treasure Bay marquee flashed news of the casino's return.

"Closing down is one thing. But getting these places re-opened and back up is another," said Bernie Burkholder of Treasure Bay Casino.

Before gamblers or employees could make their way through "Pirate's Alley", there's a checklist to follow. For openers, all the cash must be brought aboard. Then there's utilities to consider.

"As we shutdown our water systems, we've got to re-charge those and get fire inspections and those people were great to get in here even late Sunday night and get us the approval we need" said Burkholder.

"We just got out of the weather. And that was it," said Clydie Wise.

She decided to try her luck at the Isle before heading home Hurricane Dennis chased her away from the Florida panhandle.

"It was bad. It done a lot of damage. But it wasn't as bad as the other one. The other one was bad," said Wise.

The coast casino industry got lucky this time around. A precautionary storm closing was a simple sacrifice.

"That inconvenience is certainly minuscule when it comes to what it could have been if it was a direct hit for us," Burkholder said.

Gaming commission director, Larry Gregory, says the decision of when and if to close coast casinos is different with each storm.

He says the strength and potential of Hurricane Dennis made that an easy call.  The decision was made at four o'clock Saturday afternoon to close the casinos by midnight.

By Steve Phillips

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