Mississippi gaming is beginning to return to normal. The Mississippi Gaming Commission announced last week that it was lifting COVID-19 restrictions in place at casinos across the state.
Mississippi casino restrictions lifted
Mississippi casinos originally reopened in May 2020, just two months after the onset of the pandemic.
Since then, a variety of restrictions have been issued. The state’s most recent guidelines were instated on March 4 and included the following mandates:
- 75% operating capacity
- The use of face-masks at all times while indoors – except when eating or drinking
- Social distancing between all patrons and staff not in the same household
- Signage with a checklist of COVID-19 symptoms posted at all entrances
- High-frequency touch-points sanitized a minimum of once every two hours
- Guests asked to properly sanitize before using slot machines and gaming tables
- Hotel housekeeping offered only at check out or upon guest request
As of Friday, April 30, the commission has lifted these restrictions.
Neither employees nor visitors are required to wear a mask. Casinos must still abide by any state and local ordinances, though.
Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs says he does not intend on enforcing any additional restrictions on casinos in his jurisdiction. Others seem to be following suit.
Casinos welcome to uphold their own requirements
These lifted Mississippi casino restrictions come as coronavirus cases remain low in the state.
In an effort to keep cases low, some casinos will maintain certain safety protocols going forward. For instance, Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi, along with all MGM Resorts properties, will continue to require masks. The resort is scaling back on other COVID protocols, however.
Spokeswoman Mary Cracchiolo said:
“We are in the process of removing hand washing stations from the casino floor and will no longer be conducting temperature checks for team members as they enter the property. As vaccination efforts continue, we will reassess our health and safety protocols consistent with guidance from health experts, changing regulatory requirements, and input from our guests and employees.”
Chett Harrison, general manager of Golden Nugget Casino Biloxi, says the previous requirement to sanitize high-frequency touch-points every few hours was already commonplace at his property.
“We do that anyway, even before COVID. We want it to look crisp and clean everyday.”
It is up to each casino whether or not it wants to remove these protocols or keep them in place.
Mississippi casinos see increase in revenue
As restrictions ease and casino operations begin to return to normal, casino revenue on the rise. Casino wagering rose 126.3% in March 2021 compared to the $109.9 million in revenue from March 2020, at the onset of the pandemic.
Month-over-month increases were equally impressive. In March, casinos accumulated $248.8 million worth of wagers, while February brought in only $172.4 million.
Mississippi sports betting was also on the rise. Bettors wagered 5.6% more in March than in February.
However, March’s $50.5 million betting handle still falls short of January’s record of $67.7 million.
The summer might be just what casinos need to see record numbers once again.
Casinos prepare for the summer rush
Now that business is surging, Mississippi casinos are planning for the summer.
Many properties are already beginning to schedule events and live entertainment options for the coming months.
Restrictions have been lifted just in time for the Southern Gaming Summit at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, which was canceled in 2020. Hard Rock Biloxi welcomes Queensrÿche in June, while Ron White comes to Biloxi’s Beau Rivage in July.
These lifted restrictions are a win for more than just Mississippi residents, though. Tennessee is the only state bordering Mississippi where casino gambling is not yet legal. As a result, Tennessee travelers contribute a decent portion to Mississippi casino revenue.
Coincidentally, Mississippi offers Tennessee residents more casino options than any other bordering state. You can get to any of Tunica’s eight casinos by driving 40 miles south of Tennessee’s western border.
Mississippi gives summer travelers the perfect opportunity to hit the road and test their luck.