Rising river has Tunica casino industry in emergency mode

TUNICA — The staggered casino closing plan implemented by the Tunica casino industry, in conjunction with emergency management officials and the Mississippi Gaming Commission, was completed yesterday afternoon with the scheduled closing of the three casino properties located at Casino Center (Gold Strike Casino Resort, Horseshoe Casino & Hotel, Tunica Roadhouse Casino & Hotel).

The plan, put into effect April 27, was designed to allow all gaming industry employees and Tunica county visitors to safely leave the unprotected side of the Mississippi River levee system well in advance of the rising water. The Mississippi Gaming Commission and gaming executives have successfully completed the extensive closure procedures that include the protection of gaming equipment and the removal of all money from each facility.

“With the Mississippi River now expected to crest at 48 feet in Memphis, we have secured all casino properties and assets and are preparing the area the impending flood waters,” said Tunica County emergency coordinator chief Randy Stewart. “As of now, only those essential gaming industry personnel along with emergency management officials will be allowed to cross the Mississippi River levee.”

Officials from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fish and the Department of Homeland Security have arrived in Tunica County to assist local law enforcement personnel in patrolling all access points to the county’s nine casino properties.

The closures only affect those properties on the unprotected side of the levee. As previously noted, Veranda and Terrace Hotels at Harrah’s property on the east side of the levee, the Harrah’s Convention Center, the Bellissimo Spa at Harrah’s, Cottonwoods Golf Course, Tunica National Golf & Tennis and Casino Factory Shoppes are all open and will remain open for business as usual.

“No one wants to see our area’s chief industry facing such a profound loss in profits, but our casino partners acted quickly and proactively in order to safeguard the safety of their employees and patrons,” said Webster Franklin, president and CEO of the Tunica Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The closing of our nine casino properties will only exacerbate an already major economic crisis on a state and local level. It is our hope that the rising water will recede rapidly however, if it gets as high as predicted, our situation becomes even more perilous. A crest of 48 feet has the real potential to cause structural damage to our casinos and further delay our area’s recovery.”

Franklin noted that should the river levels rise as high as predicted, the recovery effort would be long lasting and would require a cooperative effort on the part of all key stakeholders.

Emergency management crews have conducted extensive ground and aerial surveys of the casino properties in order to establish a photographic baseline to assist in determining when it is safe to reopen.

Source: Tunica CVB

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