BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - The majority of casinos on the Gulf Coast have reopened their doors to guests after being closed for nearly 48 hours. In a year full of closures and re-openings, industry officials said the process has become routine.
The reopening of the Palace Casino, like many others across the Gulf Coast, felt more like another day at the office for the thousands of workers that clocked in this afternoon.
Even though the facilities were virtually unscathed this time around, the safety of employees and guests remained the top priority.
“We don’t really need permission to close. We need permission to reopen. So, our priority is the health and well-being of our employees," said Palace Casino General Manager Keith Crosby. “The issue basically on Monday was that we didn’t want folks coming in here and getting stranded. It just made more sense to evacuate the hotel and get the associates out and get them home.”
Despite multiple closures this year and a bump that he’s expecting this weekend, Crosby said that financial recovery of the days missed is unlikely.
“This business is like any other retail business, you never recover a lost day," said Crosby. “So, unfortunately the activity that we lost, we’ll never see again.”
And Crosby said that’s an industry wide problem.
Over in Biloxi, Golden Nugget General Manager Chett Harrison felt like that the losses are more than just about finances.
“I think all of the Coast casinos have been a rhythm since we closed after begin closed for COVID-19," said Harrison. “It kind of breaks your rhythm a bit when everyone goes home and gets in another frame of mind, a mentality, that we’re closed again, customers and employees. So you just have to get that rhythm back.”
In a year where things have been unexpected, Harrison said that multiple openings and closures have gotten easier because procedures for events with a lesser impact, like this past storm, don’t require a full shut down.
“If it’s not going to be an extreme impact, or maybe just outside the cone, or there’s a possibility of guest safety and we need to close," said Harrison. “We’ll do a soft close where we can keep certain personnel here and we don’t have to drop the floor, so it’s much easier going out and coming back in.”
Even though it’s been a tumultuous year, Harrison and his team are happy to be back to work again.
“The last thing I want to say is what else could happen," said Harrison. “I stay away from that phrase because Lord knows we never thought we’d see this, yet things continue to happen. Yes, I think they’re always glad to be back to work.”
Both Crosby and Harrison said that they even though they’re hoping for the best for people in Alabama an Florida, they’re happy to have dodged another dangerous storm and are looking forward to what they hope to be a big first weekend back open.