Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves Sets Memorial Weekend Deadline for Casinos Reopening

Posted on: May 1, 2020, 08:33h. 

Last updated on: May 1, 2020, 11:12h.

Some of Mississippi’s casinos will reopen by Memorial Day Weekend, Friday May 22 — albeit with some social distancing measures in place.

Mississippi casinos
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves was mum on the nature of social distancing requirements planned for the casinos. (Image: WJTV)

That’s the message from the state’s Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, who told reporters Thursday he was “confident” that gaming could be back up in just over three weeks’ time, with modifications to ensure customer safety.

Exactly what these safety measures will look like is unclear. But they are likely to have been outlined in a plan developed by the Mississippi Gaming and Hospitality Association and the Mississippi Gaming Commission. The document is now in the hands of the Governor.

“I am confident by Memorial Day weekend we will have some of the facilities open, not in the exact way they were open before,” Reeves told reporters. “We have some continued work to do. But we are heading toward ensuring social distancing in those venues in a way that can be safe for Mississippians.”

Spatial Awareness

Speaking to local CBS affiliate WLOX, John Ferrucci, general manager of the Silver Slipper Casino in Bay St Louis, offered some clues about the kinds of measures casinos will be required to adopt.

Ferruci said when the Silver Slipper eventually opens, the casino will space guests out by reducing restaurant capabilities. Every other slot machine will be deactivated, while participation in table games will be reduced to three positions per table.

There will also be separators installed at tables to protect dealers and customers from sharing germs, as well as plexiglass partitions on slot machines.

I was thrilled that the governor was thinking the same way we were,” Ferrucci said. “You know, every time you get a notice like that after what we’ve been through it is very good news. So, we’re just going to seize the moment and make sure that we are good to go when the time comes.”

The casino industry employs around 16,500 people in Mississippi, many of whom have been forced to apply for unemployment benefits since casinos were shuttered on March 16.

Restart Strategies

Across America, casinos are strategizing how they might reopen with measures to protect the public. Other ideas considered include body-temperature scanners at casino entrances and the compulsory wearing of face masks for patrons and staff.

All commercial casinos in the US currently remain closed, while a smattering of tribal properties — unbound by state laws — are beginning to open their doors.

No state other than Mississippi has announced a time line for the reopening of its commercial casinos, although Wynn Resorts chairman Matt Maddox told President Donald Trump at a White House meeting Wednesday that he hoped the first Strip casinos would also be open by Memorial Day, as reported by Newsweek.

In Las Vegas and elsewhere, the locals segment, which is less reliant on the travel and tourism sectors, is expected to reopen first.