Mississippi Coast Casinos Reopen in the Wake of Hurricane Sally

  • The 12 coastal gambling properties got the go-ahead to reopen from 1pm Wednesday
  • MS Gaming Commission ordered their temporary closure on Monday as the hurricane approached
  • Apart from a flooded parking bay, the state's casinos remained largely unscathed
  • August revenue for Mississippi's commercial casinos dropped $15.6m from July's $195m total
  • Sports betting revenue is on the up, with August's $3.75m+ indicating a 180% increase on July
dusk shot of the Beau Rivage Casino and Lighthouse in Biloxi, Mississippi
Casinos along the Mississippi Coast started to reopen on Wednesday following a temporary closure due to Hurricane Sally. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

12 casinos resume activity

Mississippi’s 12 coastal casinos got the go-ahead to reopen Wednesday from 1pm after the Mississippi Gaming Commission (MGC) ordered their temporary closure on Monday as Hurricane Sally approached. The storm eventually landed a little over 40 miles east of South Mississippi near Gulf Shores, Alabama.

escaped the tropical storm relatively unscathed

While the enclosed parking bay at the Palace Casino Resort in Biloxi was flooded, South Mississippi escaped the tropical storm relatively unscathed. Just across Grand Bay in Bayou La Batre, Alabama, however, two riverboat casinos undergoing construction broke free from their moorings and damaged a dock.

Guests started returning to the Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort on Wednesday. CEO LuAnn Pappas told Fox News 25 that the establishment had escaped damage. Having been built after Hurricane Katrina, the property “can withstand 150 mile an hour winds, and it’s 18 feet above sea level on the first floor,” she explained.

Biloxi’s Beau Rivage Resort and Casino announced it will be reopening at 10am on Thursday.

Hurricanes on top of COVID-19

When Pappas said “we want to get out of 2020 as fast as we can”, it came as no surprise, considering the financial impact COVID-19 and the hurricane season is having on the state.

we want to get out of 2020 as fast as we can”

Combined monthly casino revenue figures for August published by the MGC revealed that the state’s 26 commercial casinos raked in $179.4m. While this is a $7.5m improvement on August 2019, it’s a considerable $15.6m drop from July 2020’s total of $195m.

Mississippi’s casinos were ordered to close from midnight March 16 following the outbreak of COVID-19. The MGC then instructed state casinos to start reopening from May 21. This made Mississippi, after neighboring Louisiana, the second-fastest major commercial state to reopen its casino industry after the pandemic shutdown.

Despite just ten days to play with – and not all casinos even ready to open during May – the state’s commercial casinos still managed a respectable $68m in revenue for the month. Nevertheless, Central, Northern, and Coastal casino regions recorded month-to-month shrinkages, with the latter region hit hardest.

According to the American Gaming Association, Mississippi is one of the major commercial gaming markets in the US. Based on figures for 2019, the state generates $2.2bn gaming revenue, with a total annual economic impact of $4.41bn. Mississippi’s casinos support almost 37,300 jobs and delivered $975.6m to state coffers in tax revenues and tribal gaming revenue share by the end of the year.

Sports betting on the up

Legal sports wagering is only permitted within brick-and-mortar establishments in Mississippi, but things are looking rosy. Sports betting in the state recorded more than $3.75m in revenue for August, an increase of just over 180% on July’s $1.3m and approximately $1m up on August 2019.

Despite a hold of 9.26%, August’s sports betting handle reached almost $40.5m. Although this year’s figure is more than double the August 2019 total, the month in question last year did bear the burden of a massive 14.5% win. Mississippians’ preferred wagering sport for the month was basketball, with a total handle of almost $20m. It was followed by baseball at around $10m.