The Mississippi Gaming Commission announced last week that casinos would be reopening under strict health guidelines on May 21 at 8:00 a.m.
“It’s really good news that we are allowed to reopen and we are very gracious for that we are going to do our very best to make our guests feel safe,” said Larry Gregory, Executive Director of the Mississippi Gaming and Hospitality Association.
Phase One of their reopening will allow no more than 50 percent of the property occupied and points of entry will be limited. Guests will be asked a list of questions before being permitted onto the property. During this screening guests will also be asked to use hand sanitizer and encouraged to wear a mask which will be provided by the casino. Staff members will also undergo the same screening before coming in to work.
- Have you been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days?
- Are you experiencing a cough, shortness of breath or sore throat?
- Have you had a fever in the last 48 hours?
- Have you had new loss of taste or smell?
- Have you had vomiting or diarrhea in the last 24 hours?
The casinos plan to observe social distancing measures by requiring guests to stay at least six feet apart. Markers will also be placed where lines would form to encourage guests to keep space between them.
When it comes to machines which are frequent places of contact, staff members have been instructed to sanitize them every two hours. Staff members will also go through a formal training process on the proper cleaning and disinfecting protocol before returning to work.
There will be no entertainment or special events for the foreseeable future, no game tournaments, and VIP lounges will remain closed. While gyms are permitted to open they will be under certain limitations.
If guests do not adhere to the social distancing and cleanliness guidelines set forth they will be asked to leave the property.
The appropriate PPE will be worn by all staff members based on their jobs at each casino to prevent the possible spread of the virus. If they cannot pass the screening they will be asked to stay home.
Before casinos closed in March they estimated a total of $4.5 million lost in revenue weekly. Gregory said that estimate ended up being spot on during the closure. The state saw with the low April revenue numbers that lost casino revenue and taxes generated had a direct impact on city and county tax diversions. Gaming in FY 2020, that began in July 2019, has contributed $171.8 million in tax revenue for Mississippi. These taxes are dedicated to retiring the bonds issued for construction and reconstruction of highways.
Mississippi’s casino industry employs over 19,000 workers. When casinos closed individual properties handled whether those employees would be furloughed with or without pay.
“We are thinking most of our employees are going to come back. Those are good jobs to have,” said Gregory.
When it comes to what to expect when the doors open back up, Gregory said this pandemic is something they have never seen before, so while they have educated guesses there is really no way to know. He said that they do not anticipate that they will have the kinds of numbers they saw pre-closure.
“This is something we’ve never seen before. We don’t expect to see a reopening like we did after Katrina. We don’t anticipate lines like that,” said Gregory.
You can view the reopening orders and guidelines below: