Brace for Impact: Gulf Coast Casinos Start Safety Preparations for Hurricane Season

Gulf Coast Casinos hurricane season

Along the Gulf Coast of the USA, there are many popular casinos and hotels, with both Louisiana and Mississippi having legal land-based gambling. Between them, the two states house 44 gambling venues along their Gulf of Mexico coastlines.

Hurricanes have been a risk in this region for as long as humans have been inhabiting it. However, the past few years have seen a rise in the number of strong hurricanes and storms to hit the coast during the yearly season.  

In Louisiana, many of these casinos are actually on riverboats. That potentially makes large storms and hurricanes even more damaging.

“Now is the time for communities along the coastline as well as inland to get prepared for the dangers that hurricanes can bring,” US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo warned via the NOAA.

“First, we monitor hurricanes for potential landfall. As a storm gets closer and we can get a better picture of it, we will start communicating with the operators for action that may be taken,” the executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission told reporters last week after the Secretary’s statement.

Grim Records

Last year was the most active hurricane season on record. Over 30 storms big enough to be designated with names hit the East coast of the USA in 2020, with a dozen making landfall along the Gulf Coast states alone.

Hurricane Laura hit Louisiana in August 2020 with the joint record highest wind speeds of any hurricane to make landfall in the last 150 years.

The storm killed over 40 people in Louisiana and Texas and caused $19 billion in damages.

One riverboat casino in Lake Charles, Louisiana, the Grand Palais, was blown away from its moorings and into the supports of a nearby Interstate bridge.

Luckily, the Grand Palais, which can accommodate over 2,000 patrons, was not open to the public or being crewed at the time. However, the structural damage was still significant, and the riverboat casino is not expected to re-open until 2022.

Millions in Damages

Less than six weeks after Hurricane Laura, quite late in the year for the hurricane season, the same Gulf Coast area was hit with storm Zeta. The torrential rainfall and slow movement of this particular storm caused heavy flooding in some parts of Louisiana.

Zeta’s path of destruction led to the deaths of two people in New Orleans and caused some $3 billion in damage. Some reports estimated that the damage to casino properties alone could have been as much as $15 million.

The Golden Nugget Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, saw its parking garage flooded in several feet of water that ended up floating many of the cars that had been left there.

The Gulf Coast’s casinos cannot afford any more closures this year – just like in Vegas and other gambling hubs, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit bottom lines hard.

Luckily, the scientists charged with monitoring and predicting hurricane seasons in the US and the Caribbean think that 2021 won’t be quite as bad as 2020 for major storms.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration still believes an above-average season is the most likely, with the average being 15 named storms.

That compares with over 30 in 2020, which marked the first time since 1950 that the entire alphabet’s worth of names was used up in one season.

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