Casinos told to close as Miss. River rises

Published 1:33 pm Friday, April 29, 2011

As the Mississippi River rises to near-record levels, Tunica’s nine casinos will shut down indefinitely over the next several days, displacing about 10,000 workers and costing millions in lost dollars for the Delta community.

The Mississippi Gaming Commission ordered the closings as precautionary measure.

The closings were to begin Thursday with Resorts Casino Tunica, followed by Bally’s Casino Tunica on Friday. Fitzgerald’s, Hollywood, Sam’s Town and Harrah’s will close Sunday followed by Gold Strike, Horseshoe and Roadhouse on Monday.

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The staggered timing reflects the different times that the various casinos will be affected by the high water, said Valerie Morris, vice president of communications for Caesars Entertainment, which owns three casinos.

Morris said amenities that are on the protected side of the mainline levee — including golf courses and some hotels — will remain open.

Larry Gregory, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, said Wednesday that it was likely the river levels will shut down casinos in Greenville, Vicksburg and Natchez.

He said river levels in those areas would be reviewed next week.

Webster Franklin, president and CEO of the Tunica Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the shutdown also will close 5,000 hotel rooms.

“We do not anticipate any damage to the properties themselves, but that is not out of the realm of possibility depending on how high the river gets,” Franklin said, estimating the casinos could be closed anywhere from three to six weeks.

Mississippi River casinos — properties stretching from Tunica to Natchez — generated revenues of $115 million last month, and the state received about $25 million in tax dollars from all its gaming properties.