Gulf Coast Casinos Brace for Start of Hurricane Season 

Posted on: May 23, 2021, 02:48h. 

Last updated on: May 24, 2021, 08:14h.

Casinos along the Gulf Coast in Mississippi and Louisiana are preparing for the six-month hurricane season that begins June 1. Last year, hurricanes battered casinos in both states.

Isle of Capri
The Isle of Capri riverboat casino rests against a bridge near Lake Charles, La., after breaking loose during a hurricane in August 2020. This year’s hurricane season is June 1-Nov. 30. (Image: The Advocate)

Allen Godfrey, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, told the commission monitors hurricanes for potential landfall “and the potential for destruction.” 

“As it gets closer and we can get a better picture of it, (the commission) will start communicating with the operators for action that may be taken,” he said. “Should the decision be made to actually close the casino, then the operators start removing patrons, dealing with the cash, and securing the premises and running reports.”

Godfrey said when casinos reopen, commission staff members “visit each property to determine they have done everything according to the opening list.”

Mississippi is home to 26 commercial casinos. Twelve are along the Gulf Coast. Eight are on the coast in the Biloxi area.

Next door to Mississippi, Lt. Robert Fontenot of the Louisiana State Police told the Gaming Enforcement Division is working now with riverboat casinos “to ensure preparations are being made.”

“That includes compliance with both inclement weather and high-water procedures,” he said.

Louisiana has 13 riverboat casinos, one land-based casino in New Orleans, and four racinos. 

Devastating Year

Last year, South Louisiana was clobbered in the Lake Charles area when two deadly hurricanes, Laura and Delta, roared ashore only six weeks apart. 

In August, the unoccupied Isle of Capri riverboat casino in Lake Charles came unmoored during Hurricane Laura and struck a bridge. The casino is expected to reopen by next year

Several other casinos were damaged during the major storms that strafed the Gulf Coast last year.

As a precaution, numerous other casinos in Louisiana and Mississippi shut down their operations as powerful storms were barreling toward the shore.

In October, fast-moving Hurricane Zeta ripped through New Orleans and swamped casinos along the Mississippi Gulf Coast east of the Crescent City.

The record number of storms that struck the Gulf Coast last year took an economic toll on the casino industry.

Josh Hirsberg, Boyd Gaming’s chief financial officer, said the storms had an impact of up to $5 million on the Nevada-based company. Boyd Gaming has five properties in Louisiana and two in Mississippi.

Record Hurricane Season

Last year, there were a record 30 named storms during the Atlantic hurricane season. Of those, 12 made landfall in the US, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Five hit Louisiana.

This year, 18 named storms are predicted to develop in the Atlantic Basin during hurricane season from June 1 through Nov. 30. The average from 1991 to 2020 has been 15, according to CNN.

As many as five of these storms this year are projected to be major hurricanes.

In recent days, Tropical Storm Ana has formed in the Atlantic Ocean. This is the seventh straight year in which at least one named storm has developed before the official June start of hurricane season, according to CNN. Ana is not expected to hit the US.

Colorado State University scientists say one reason for this increase in storms is that warmer-than-average Atlantic waters are “providing fuel” for the turbulent weather, according to CBS News.