Tropical Storm Nate Heads to Gulf Coast, Casinos Hope to Remain Open

Posted on: October 6, 2017, 10:13h. 

Last updated on: October 6, 2017, 10:15h.

Tropical Storm Nate is now the latest in a series of natural disasters that could be heading towards the Gulf Coast this weekend, where it’s expected to make landfall as a hurricane. Mississippi residents have been warned to prepare, but for now, Gulf Coast casinos are expected to remain open over the upcoming Columbus Day weekend, unless the threat level rises.

Gulf Coast Casinos Tropical Storm Nate
The 2011 floods in Tunica, Mississippi should serve as warning to Gulf Coast casinos not to be complacent in the face of Tropical Storm Nate, which could make landfall in the area as a hurricane sometime this weekend. (Image: Lance Murphey/Memphis Daily News)

“We’re monitoring it,” said Mississippi Gaming Commission Executive Director Allen Godfrey on Thursday afternoon, after a conference call with the National Weather Service. “It’s a long way out,” he said.

Storm Nate, or Tropical Depression 16, as it is also being called, is currently headed towards the northern Gulf Coast, and could impact anywhere from Florida to Louisiana.

Caribbean Already Hit

On Thursday, the storm turned deadly. At least 22 deaths have been reported in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Honduras, where landslides and floods are blocking roads, destroying bridges and damaging property. In Costa Rica, thousands are now homeless and nearly 400,000 are without running water.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that some on the Gulf Coast have begun sandbagging, while Saturday’s portion of the Gulfport Music Festival has been cancelled. Organizers of the area’s popular week-long “Cruisin’ the Coast” car show are also considering cancelling the event over the three-day weekend.

“We don’t want any of our visitors to be in harm’s way,” city spokesman Vincent Creel told the AP, adding that city officials feared that hundreds of RVs the show has attracted could be especially vulnerable to high winds.

Coastal officials are not yet recommending evacuations or opening shelters, although Hancock County Emergency Management Director Brian Adam said that might change on Friday when the trajectory of the storm becomes clearer.

Gaming Takes a Hit

Last month, Hurricane Irma battered Florida, causing damage to casinos and parimutuel venues. The Mardi Gras Casino in Hallandale Beach had its roof torn off by the storm, allowing water to permeate the building and completely flooding the first floor. It’s currently closed indefinitely.

Just weeks earlier, Macau was struck by Typhoon Hato, causing the temporary closure of many of the gambling hub’s casinos and pushing back the opening of the MGM Cotai.

Mississippi’s casinos cannot afford to be too complacent. They’ve known natural disaster before, albeit further north, in Tunica.

In April 2011, the Mississippi River flooded. Waters rose eight feet, blocking doors to many casinos and crippling gambling operations in the area. The industry reported that revenue was cut in half that year, while huge expenses were shelled out on repairs. Tunica’s casino sector has never quite bounced back.