Casinos across the US and its territories, as well as in Macau, bore the wrath of Mother Nature over the past 12 months. In the end, it was gambling revenues that took the hit, as numerous Cat 4 and 5 hurricanes and typhoons pummeled both the American and Asian gaming markets in 2017.
Casino closures, guest room cancellations, and inaccessibility following storm damage were among the factors that caused the industry to feel the pain at the bottom line this past year.
The Thunder Roared
The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was hyperactive, with six major Category 3 or stronger storms hitting the US, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean. Over 420 people died, and final damage estimates are predicted to be close to $200 billion across the board.
The first major hurricane this year to make landfall in the US was Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm that hit Texas and the Houston area in late August. While the hurricane devastated much of southeastern Texas, riverboat casinos located in nearby Lake Charles, Louisiana, were spared.
Despite being docked in Galveston, the Jacks or Better casino cruise ship got lucky. Just 50 miles southeast of Houston on the Gulf of Mexico, the company, not necessarily advisedly, resumed providing gambling tours just days after much of the state endured a Category 4 hurricane.
Almost at the exact time that Harvey was doing damage in Houston, over 8,000 miles away in Macau, Typhoon Hato was delivering massive blows to China’s special gaming enclave in August.
The storm was the strongest to hit Macau in 53 years. Ten people died, and Hato caused almost $2 billion in damage in South China. The storm closed casinos and caused delays to the MGM Cotai , which is now expected to open its doors in January.
Executives from the six licensed casino companies in Macau, which will begin seeing permits expire as of 2020, stepped up to help aid in the city’s recovery. Combined, the six operators donated $26.7 million to Macau charities. Las Vegas Sands and its founder Sheldon Adelson led the way, with a $12.3 million pledge. Wynn Resorts gave $3.75 million to Macau, and another $3.75 million to Houston’s Harvey, an altruistic move, considering there are no legal land-based casinos in Texas.
US Takes a Hit
Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm that was deemed the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin outside the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, hit landfall in the US in early September. The storm pummeled towards Florida, but casinos and parimutuel tracks fared well.
Many gambling venues provided electricity and a climate-controlled escape, as power was slow to be restored in the southern part of the steamy and warm Sunshine State.
The final bad weather chapter in 2017 was devastating. Category 5 Maria targeted Puerto Rico, and made landfall on September 20. The storm caused catastrophic damage, and led to a humanitarian crisis, as hundreds of thousands went without fresh water, fuel, electricity, phone service, and other vital basic necessities for weeks.
Casino resorts across the island were closed for days after the storm, but began reopening in the weeks following Maria.