Miss. coastal casinos dodge major damage

Published 1:24 pm Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Mississippi regulators say the 11 casinos on the Gulf Coast will remain closed until crews finish cleaning up from Hurricane Gustav’s storm surge and until an adequate number of employees return to work.

Larry Gregory, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, said Tuesday that none of the casinos sustained structural damage from Gustav, which raced along the Mississippi coast Monday.

“By and large, they’re in fine shape … a little bit of water and rain come in the ground floors. All have a little clean up to do,” Gregory said.

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Gregory said he has allowed some gaming workers to go in for cleanup and maintenance.

“We’ve got to take a look at the transportation issue — how people can get back to work because so many evacuated and it takes a certain level of staffing to open casinos,” he said.

Hard Rock Casino in Biloxi got about 2 feet of water in the lobby. The casino itself is on the second floor, officials said. The Hard Rock was severely damage by Hurricane Katrina shortly before it was to open in 2005.

In Hancock County, the general manager of the Silver Slipper Casino said he expects the place to be closed about a week.

John Ferrucci told The Sun Herald newspaper that the casino was untouched, but there was a lot of water and debris on the lowest level. Coolers and freezers also were lost, he said.

Water was up to the front door but the casino floor is two floors up and safe from any storm surge, he said.

Bob Davidge, spokesman for Hollywood Casino in Bay St. Louis, said there was only minor damage because the casino and hotel were rebuilt above the construction standards after Katrina.

Rick Carter, co-owner of Island View Casino Resort in Gulfport, said the property sustained minimal, superficial damage, mostly to the landscaping that faces the Gulf of Mexico.

Boomtown Biloxi and IP Casino Resort, both in Biloxi, also had some flooding.