Mississippi has been one of the hardest-hit regions in the US casino market.
Of course, the state’s struggles go much farther back than the recent coronavirus shutdowns, as a number of permanent closures – particularly in Tunica Resorts – have occurred of late.
Most recently, the Tunica Roadhouse Casino & Hotel and Resorts Casino Tunica were shuttered for good in January 2019 and June 2019, respectively.
Generally speaking, the casinos along the Gulf Coast in and around Biloxi have fared slightly better financially, despite a lack of Mississippi online gambling in the state.
To that end, most of the state’s remaining venues still have a bright outlook despite the COVID-19 outbreak.
In fact, the coronavirus lockdowns only affected MS brick-and-mortar casinos for just over two months, with all casinos closing on March 16 and reopening again on May 21.
Of course, with those reopenings came a host of new health and safety requirements in line with the social distancing practices established to combat COVID-19.
These measures include limited occupancy of the gaming floor and facilities, mandatory masks for employees, and – in many cases – mandatory temperature checks for guests upon entering the venues.
Most casinos also delayed the openings of their on-site restaurants and food and drink services.
Unfortunately, the beleaguered Mississippi casino industry – which failed to convince the state legislature to legalize mobile gambling and sports betting before the latter pastime was officially launched at retail venues in August 2018, is now facing a new problem.
And it’s a potentially serious – if seriously laughable – one.
On Thursday, a national worker’s union representing some 300,000 casino employees made an official plea to the Mississippi Gaming Commission.
The UNITE HERE Local 23 took its concerns to the MS commission on Thursday morning, and while the commission has not made any changes, it has agreed to investigate the matter.
At the heart of the complaint is that, since reopening, at least 15 casino workers in the Gulf Coast region of the state have contracted COVID-19, allegedly while on the job.
All of the complaints center around a lack of enforcement of coronavirus operational procedures, including mask-wearing, hand-washing, and surface sanitation (despite CDC guidance that the disease is not spread on inanimate surfaces).
Most of the cited issues have to do with these casinos not doing enough to enforce the mask-wearing guidelines among the venues’ patrons.
This is an especially interesting – and questionable – claim, however, as only two of the 15 cases were reported in employees that are customer-facing (both of whom were food servers).
In all, 10 of the alleged coronavirus cases have been documented at the Beau Rivage, the state’s most famous and profitable casino resort. The remaining five cases were recorded at the IP Casino Resort Spa. The complaint lists the following positive COVID-19 cases:
- June 2 – Cook
- June 6 – Dishwasher
- June 15 – Housekeeper
- June 20 – Cook
- June 29 – Housekeeper
- July 11 – Food Runner
- July 15 – Housekeeper
- July 17 – Housekeeper
- July 20 – Server
- August 8 – Server
IP Casino Resort Spa
- June 13 – Housekeeper
- June 17 – Housekeeper
- June 19 – Housekeeper
- June 22 – Housekeeper
- June 24 – Housekeeper
While the complaint ties these positive tests to customers on the gaming floors not wearing their masks, not a single employee testing positive for the virus works on the gaming floor.
Thus, it seems as if most of the disease’s extremely limited spread came from the workers themselves not following mandatory guidelines, if it was spread at the casinos at all.
It remains to be seen if this point will be broached by the gaming commission.
Equally amusingly, the claimants’ solution – according to WLOX News – is to increase employees’ potential exposure to the virus:
“The union is also calling on the Mississippi Gaming Commission to update its policies regarding housekeeping in casino hotel rooms. As of now, those guidelines say rooms are only being cleaned after a guest checks out to help reduce the spread of the virus. However, the union’s report says those guidelines go against daily housekeeping standards implemented in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. they are now calling on the MGC to put those same policies in place.”
Ultimately, the disingenuous and politically charged fiasco playing out in Mississippi is simply more evidence that you should just play at legal online casinos for the foreseeable future, ditching the local scene altogether.
While you cannot play online casino games hosted by MS-based operators, you can legally play these – and enjoy online sports betting, poker, and horse racing betting – by using any of several reputable, US-friendly online gambling sites operating overseas.
Even better, these Mississippi-friendly online casinos will let you play real-money casino games at just 18 and up, while Mississippi’s brick-and-mortar venues require all customers to be 21-plus.