Tropical Storm Nate Causes Mississippi Casinos to Shut Down

Mississippi Gulf Coast Casino Closures

Hurricane Nate had been downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it hit landfall, but it caused flooding and power outages throughout the Gulf Coast region.

As Hurricane Nate made its way ashore this past weekend, The Mississippi Gaming Commission required all of the 12 Gulf Coast casinos to close their doors by 5pm Saturday evening. Employees and guests who were already in the Casino at the time of closure were allowed to stay.

By Saturday, Hurricane Nate had hit the Mississippi coastline with 10-foot surges.

Nate was a Category 1 hurricane, but by the time it came ashore, the National Hurricane Association downgraded it to a tropical store. The storm brought dangerous conditions all along the Gulf Coast region, from Louisiana to Alabama.

Golden Nugget Biloxi had around 300 holdover customers in it at the time of the closures. Some of the patrons had never experienced a hurricane situation before, so they had a unique travel experience. Speaking for those who waited out the storm, Scott King, VP of Marketing said of the visitors, “They bonded.”

Reopened Sunday at 11:30am

Beginning 11:30am Sunday morning, Mississippi Gulf Coast casinos received the all-clear to re-open. Several received more structural damage than others, though locals described the damage as minimal. No deaths or injuries were reported.

Out of all the Mississippi coast casinos, Golden Nugget seemed to have encountered the most amount of damage from the wrath of Tropical Storm Nate. The elevator lobby flooded, along with the pool area. The gaming floor was unscathed by the rushing waters.

The Silver Slipper Casino in Bay St. Louis and the Scarlet Pearl Casino in D’lberville were among the luckiest. Both are located at water’s edge, but never lost power and suffered from no water damage. The long-discussed sea wall appeared to have done its job.

Previous Casino Closures Due to Hurricanes

This is not the first time the Mississippi Gaming Commission shut down all Gulf Coast casinos, due to the legacy of Hurricane Katrina. Closures happened for Hurricane Gustav in August 2008 and Both Hurricane Isaac in August of 2012, when the commission issued mandatory shut down procedures.

Like the current situation, all casinos in those situations were closed for a three day stretch.

The Legacy of Hurricane Katrina

Though Hurricanes are never easy to endure, Hurricane Nate proved to be a minor blip compared to Hurricane Katrina. Casino staff and many managers remain from the 2005 hurricane which damaged te entire Gulf Coast casino economy.

At the time, many casinos were completely uprooted from their foundations, causing billions of dollars in damage and destruction. At the time in 2005, Treasure Bay Casino in Biloxi was said to be a “total loss”, with some $100 million in damage. Both the Beau Rivage Casino and the Hard Rock Casino lost entire floors.

Economic Impact of Katrina

The loss of jobs and revenue caused widespread distress of Southern Mississippi’s economy. Over 14,000 jobs were lost, while Casinos attempted to rebuild.
Casino companies were hit hard by the closures, too, with lost revenues at bigger resorts some $500,000 a day. The year prior to Katrina hit, the state’s casinos generated $2.7 billion in revenue.

The human impact of Hurricane Katrina combined tragedy to mere collateral damage. Over 1,200 lives were lost when Hurricane Katrina hit, making it one of the deadliest hurricanes in US history, behind only the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane in the Southern United States and Puerto Rico (2500 dead) and the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900, which left between 8,000 and 12,000 dead.

Tropical Storm Nate’s Impact

Though no one predicted that Tropical Storm Nate’s would be as destructive as Hurricane Katrina, the Mississippi Gambling Commission was not going to take any chances. Hurricanes are notably unpredictable. By closing the doors to all 12 resorts, workers and gamblers were not put in harm’s way, in case the storm gained in strength in the hours before landfall.

The impact of Tropical Storm Nate on the Biloxi-Gulfport area mainly was economic. Each of the 12 casinos lost 3 days of revenue, while workers lost wages.
As Tropical Storm Nate made its way east toward Alabama and Georgia, it began to diminish. The main impact was in a amount of power outages reported throughout the region. Over 100,000 residents were reported to be without electricity, but power companies were working to restore power to the affected areas.