Casinos are likely to stay open - Sunday 12th of June 2005

The Mississippi Gaming Commission on Friday had no plans to close the Coast's 12 casinos, but its key personnel continued to monitor Tropical Storm Arlene throughout the evening and early morning hours.

Gambling agents assigned to the Harrison County Civil Defense and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency in Jackson were keeping Larry Gregory, the commission's executive director, posted on any changes in forecasts.

Gregory would consult with Commission Chairman Jerry St. Pé and the other two commissioners before issuing any order to close the casinos.

But Gregory said it was unlikely the order would be issued.

"In Mississippi, it looks like we're just going to get a little rain and wind," Gregory said Friday afternoon. "I think we're going to be in an especially busy year. This has been a good test case for us getting ready for what may come."

The agency typically gives casinos at least 12 hours notice before a closing, Gregory said. The closing process is time consuming because all money has to be accounted for and removed from the gambling barges. Casino personnel must also secure equipment, computers and other items.

"If it's in the best interest of public safety to close the casinos, what we try to do is get a time frame where we can get people off safely and also not lose too much revenue," Gregory said. "It's a difficult balance to maintain, but it's one we're challenged to do."

A key adviser to Gregory is David Kingman, a Gaming Commission senior enforcement agent. The decision on whether to close is based on several variables, he said.

"Generally, the first part of the decision is directed by the projected landfall of the storm, the magnitude of the storm, the category of the storm, all this goes into the mix," Kingman said. "Then based on information through the county civil defense department, MEMA and the Hurricane Center in Miami, the decision is made as to what kind of impact it's going to have on the local area."

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