TUNICA COUNTY, Miss. — After months of being out of business, Mississippi casinos have officially been cleared to reopen, but there will be a new normal to adjust to and a new set of guidelines to follow.
The Mississippi Gaming Commission decided casinos across the state can reopen May 21, relaunching a recreational activity and also allowing thousands of Mid-South residents to return to their jobs.
“People are anxious to get back to work and offer the kind of entertainment that people have come to expect here in Tunica,” said Webster Franklin, CEO of the Tunica Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“It’s better to get it right than to get it done quickly, but my goal is to get it done quickly and right for the people that need it,” Gov. Tate Reeves said.
New COVID-19-related guidelines stress caution.
Casinos will operate at 50% capacity, tables and slots will reopen under social distancing rules, and equipment will be cleaned regularly.
Tunica officials estimate more than 4,500 employees work at the casinos. For a town of less than 10,000, COVID-19 has caused crippling losses.
“We are 99.9% dependent on the gaming and tourism economy,” Franklin said. “It’s somewhat like a ghost town.”
But leaders at the local and state level are optimistic this reopening could be a major jolt to the small-town Mississippi economy if staff and patrons can work together.
“Please play your part,” Gov. Reeves said. “Please be responsible … Please look out for your fellow Mississippians.”
Casino officials WREG spoke with are optimistic restrictions will be loosened one month after the reopening, but the Mississippi Gaming Commission will have the final say.