As Floridians pull together in a spirit of communal recovery after Hurricane Irma, clean-up efforts have one casino in the state contending its chief competitor is engaged in dirty business through trying times.

Mardi Gras Casino and Dog Track, closed indefinitely after Irma

The Mardi Gras Casino in Hollywood, Florida, lost its roof during Hurricane Irma, and managers contend the competing Gulfstream Casino has swooped in not to help rebuild, but to pilfer slot players. (Image: Mardi Gras Casino)

While most of Florida’s gaming industry survived the hurricane relatively unscathed, the Mardi Gras Casino in Hollywood was the one gambling venue to face significant damage when a mini-tornado tore its roof off, flooding the first floor.

The Mardi Gras is currently closed indefinitely, which has the nearby Gulfstream Park Racing and Casino in Hallandale Beach, about a mile away, “helping” by bending over backwards to serve Mardi Gras’ customers.

The two casinos have long been sworn rivals, and are regularly in hot competition for sixth place (out of eight) in Florida’s pari-mutuel market. And while there may be little wrong with healthy competition, Mardi Gras contends its old foe is being exploitive, and has taken things too far.

No Bridge Over Troubled Waters

According to the Miami Herald, since the hurricane hit the state on Sep. 10, Gulfstream has been advertising that it will honor loyalty coupons Mardi Gras gives to top players offering free slots play.

“It is sad and pathetic, but not surprising,” Mardi Gras President Dan Adkins told the Herald. “It’s so sad when you have a community that’s battered and someone feels like now’s the time to be an opportunist. It’s indicative of their nature and that’s OK with me.”

But Gulfstream Park’s assistant GM Ernie Dellaverson says Adkins is being a bit disingenuous.

“We’re just doing something that’s been done since the beginning of casino marketing,” he says. “If the roles were reversed, I’d expect them to do [the same]. It’s about helping the players, and I haven’t heard a complaint so far.”

Casino Karma

Adkins contends Gulfstream is still sore about being beaten to the sixth spot in casino earnings this year, albeit by a photo finish. Mardi Gras posted $51 million in gross gaming revenue for the first half of 2017, compared to Gulfstream Park’s $50 million.

But ultimately, Adkins says he believes his casino will win in the long run because it has a certain Buddhist spiritual principle of cause and effect on its side.

“Here at Mardi Gras we have a little friend named Karma,” he said. “When we rise from the ashes, the grandeur of Mardi Gras, along with Karma, will more than overcome these senseless, childish opportunists.”

Although, for such a believer in Karma, he must be asking what he did in a previous life for his casino to get trashed by a hurricane while the other one a mile up the road is doing just fine.

“When we reopen,” he said, “we’re going to go back to kicking their ass.”