WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — Southland Casino is planning to reopen to customers Monday, May 18.
West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon believes Southland Casino’s reopening Monday morning is coming too soon.
“Well, you know, like I tell everyone, just because it’s opened doesn’t mean you have to go,” McClendon said. “I want to continue to be consistent. I’m asking everyone to stay away till June 1st and re-evaluate then at that point.”
Come Monday morning, owners of Southland Casino hope the landscape will change from a barren parking to a bustling gambling destination.
They’ve announced social distancing procedures to curb the threat of COVID-19.
McClendon still isn’t 100 percent behind the reopening even though hundreds of laid-off employees could be returning to work.
“I think we can’t rush back into this thing without making sure we keep the people safe that’s going in and patronizing or the people that’s going in to work,” McClendon said.
McClendon says he’s reached out to funeral directors, pastors, business leaders and even Southland Casino operators, urging them to set June 1 as a target date for re-evaluating whether it’s safe to resume normal operations.
He says COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Crittenden County, and right now the city is not totally dependent on the $600,000-a-month tax revenues generated by the casino.
“Which was a big chunk of our budget. Thanks to our city council and this administration, we had already curbed spending and right now, with this budget, we’re sitting almost a million dollars still above our budget,” McClendon said.
The manager of Margarita’s Restaurant, next to Southland says the casino will bring back the business she’s lost recently.
“The closing of it dampened our business, obviously, but we’re very excited it’s opening,” said Ester Winston. “It’s giving the employees able to come back to work, so it’s helping the whole community.”