Riverboat Casinos Come Unmoored in Hurricane Sally, Mississippi Coastal Casinos Reopen

Posted on: September 16, 2020, 12:19h. 

Last updated on: September 21, 2020, 03:03h.

Two riverboat casinos undergoing construction work came unmoored by Hurricane Sally’s destructive winds along the Alabama Gulf Coast this week.

Alabama riverboat
One of two unoccupied riverboat casinos that drifted ashore in Alabama during Hurricane Sally is seen in this image. No injuries were reported. (Image: Fox23-TV)

After breaking loose Tuesday at Bayou La Batre, Ala., at least one of the unoccupied riverboats struck a dock. There were no reported injuries.

M.J. Bosarge, who lives near the shipyard where the riverboat casinos were being worked on, said the vessel did considerable damage to the dock, according to the Associated Press.

In a video of the incident posted online, a multi-level riverboat can be seen under cloudy skies drifting into a dock. The first riverboat already had floated ashore.

“The second casino just broke loose,” a man is heard saying on the video. “Ooh. It’s crushing the dock.”

Mississippi Casinos Reopen

With wind speeds of more than 105 mph, Hurricane Sally, a Category 2 storm, reached landfall at 4:45 a.m. Wednesday at Gulf Shores, Alabama.

A beach and fishing town of about 9,700 people, Gulf Shores is just south of Mobile between the Mississippi and Florida borders. It is the same place where Hurricane Ivan made landfall in 2004, also on Sept. 16.

This week’s storm, Hurricane Sally, drenched the region in heavy rainfall during its slow-moving pace. When it hit, the hurricane only was traveling at 3 mph, or about the speed that people can walk, according to the AP.

The 12 casinos along the Mississippi Gulf Coast that were closed Monday were allowed to open again by mid-week.

On Monday, with the storm barreling toward the coast, the Mississippi Gaming Commission issued a directive requiring casino patrons to evacuate. Of the 12 casinos along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, eight are in the Biloxi area. Mississippi is home to 26 commercial casinos.

With the hurricane making landfall east of the Mississippi coastal region, casinos were allowed to reopen at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, according to Larry Gregory, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming and Hospitality Association.

Louisiana Riverboat Operating Again

The two unmoored riverboat casinos that drifted on open water in Alabama this week called to mind an earlier, similar incident in Louisiana.

On Aug. 27, as Hurricane Laura lashed the Louisiana coastline with winds up to 150 mph, the Isle of Capri riverboat casino in Lake Charles came unmoored and struck a bridge. A tugboat returned it to its original location.

All four hotel-casinos in the Lake Charles area were damaged in the Category 4 hurricane. These casinos were closed temporarily but have since reopened, according to Lt. Robert Fontenot of the Louisiana State Police.

Fontenot told Casino.org the Isle of Capri’s motor system will require repair work because of the incident. However, the riverboat was not structurally damaged and is back in operation as a floating casino. The boat is not taking on water and is safe, he told Casino.org.