Casino workers making the best of uncertain situation

Casinos across South Mississippi closed down operations a little more than a week ago, leaving 13,000 employees wondering what’s next.

Casino workers making the best of uncertain situation

BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - The casino industry, one of the state’s largest revenue generators, came to a screeching halt nine days ago. The employees of that industry in South Mississippi are now without a job. To some, the uncharted territory is bleak and unpromising. To others, it’s a blessing in disguise.

David Gooch is a casino Chef de Partie. His property was preparing for the peak season when the announcement to close came in. He did what he thought was best.

“The first thing I did was go into survival mode. On my first day off, I went home and made ten pounds of beef jerky— just in case— because that’s not going to go bad. I spent a couple days fishing and brushing up on, like I said, ‘Survival techniques,’" Gooch said.

But he’s not working only for himself.

“I’ve been reaching out to the community to see if there’s people that I can help, anything that I can do to just make people’s lives better," said Gooch.

Casinos across South Mississippi closed down operations a little more than a week ago, leaving 13,000 employees wondering what’s next.
Casinos across South Mississippi closed down operations a little more than a week ago, leaving 13,000 employees wondering what’s next. (Source: Photo WLOX)

At another casino, Amber Leggett works in the spa. Unemployment is a new concept for her.

“I haven’t been unemployed since I was fifteen, I’ve always had a job. So, for me, that was not an option. I started looking into backup possibilities for work because this is incredibly unknown... what’s going to happen and where we’re going to go from here. So I signed up for Waitr. I’m doing what I can to take care of my family," Leggett said.

Like Leggett, casino entertainer Jesse Hill says he’s also turning a negative into a positive by recording a song with his niece and his wife. The song was an inspirational track from the Greatest Showman called A Million Dreams, and he wants to remind people that they are still singing, there is still music out there.

“That’s a song we recorded, she laid down her track a couple of months ago. Then me and Stephanie, my wife, we never had time. She’s always teaching, I’m always gigging. Finally, with this time that we have we were like let’s make it happen, let’s record, we have no more excuses. So we recorded," Hill said.

Additionally, the time off is giving Hill an opportunity to work on his side job designing websites for his company Hill Tree Marketing.

The Mississippi Gaming Commission closure order states that properties will remain closed until further notice as they continue to monitor the threat of COVID-19.

FULL INTERVIEW: MDES Executive Director Jackie Turner

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