BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Mississippi casinos will be allowed to reopen at 8am on Thursday, May 21. WLOX News received confirmation of that decision Thursday afternoon from Allen Godfrey, Executive Director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission.
When asked about that decision to reopen, Governor Tate Reeves said, “If the gaming commission has released their decision, it is final and official.”
The Mississippi Gaming Commission will send out its official order Friday. That order will include the guidelines all casinos must follow to reopen.
“We have got 12 opportunities to get it right down here,” said Biloxi Mayor FoFo Gilich.
Of the 12 casinos in South Mississippi, 8 of them reside in Biloxi, and the mayor is well aware of the importance to the local economy.
“You look at those 12,000 jobs I don’t know how many will come right off the rattle, but the opportunity that spins along with the economy in the gaming industry will be important, and allow us to get to some steps towards normalcy.”
Several coast casinos have already been re-configuring their gaming floors, moving slot machines and table games to accommodate social distancing guidelines. Palace Casino Resort General Manager Keith Crosby has been one of the most outspoken about his property’s plans to protect employees and guests.
Crosby said the Biloxi resort will suspend gaming activity every day from 3 a.m. to 8 a.m. to disinfect the casino. Plexiglass shields have been installed at every casino cage, sportsbook, cashier, and front desk location. And hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes will be available throughout the resort property.
The Scarlet Pearl has also worked extensively to install new safety methods and devices in its establishment. CEO LuAnn Pappas was on a zoom call with employees when they got the news about reopening.
“It brought tears to my eyes the comments and the social media. The text messages from all the employees when they heard that we are opening Thursday at eight am and we’re going to welcome and embrace everyone back," said Pappas. "They were so excited and again it brings tears to your eyes, because there have been so many people worried about if they will have a job when they come back.”
Many of those worries now fading away as the reopen date draws closer. Milton Segarra of Coastal Mississippi believes the return of the casinos will be huge for tourism, and views it as an opportunity for the coast.
“We are talking about the most important appealer for the industry for the coast. Gaming is back. It is going to be a phenomenal opportunity for us as a destination, to demonstrate to the region, and state how we’re coming back.” said Segarra.