Mississippi casinos given flexibility on COVID-19 protocols; some making masks optional

Mississippi casinos given flexibility on COVID-19 protocols; some making masks optional
Some casinos now letting masks be optional (Source: WLBT)

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) -Masks have been a requirement for folks entering Mississippi casinos since they reopened last May. But beginning Friday, that’s changing for a lot of them.

We spotted several people still entering WaterView Casino in Vicksburg with their masks on. But the face coverings became optional starting at 5:01 Friday.

“We’ll continue to make masks available to guests who would like to have one on but maybe didn’t bring one,” said WaterView Director of Marketing Amy Hudson. “And our team members who would like to wear a mask obviously will be able to do that, as well. As I understand it, our thought process is we’re going to let people make the choice to do what they are most comfortable with.”

The Mississippi Gaming commission sent out this letter to casinos Thursday that says all previous requirements mandated by the commission will be cancelled effective Friday at 5 pm. But it noted that casinos shall continue to abide by any state and local rules or ordinances pertaining to COVID-19.

Some casinos around the state are keeping their mask mandates in place including the Beau Rivage in Biloxi and Gold Strike in Tunica, both MGM properties. Whether lifting the restrictions in some locations will have an impact on gaming numbers remains to be seen. In fact, the gaming commission says it has been one of the best quarters Mississippi has seen in probably 10 years.

“People were coming and gambling,” said Mississippi Gaming Commission Executive Director Allen Godfrey. “We are about 10% above first quarter of 2019 which turned out to be one of our best years in a long time.”

Gaming revenues are about 10% above first quarter of 2019 which was one of the best years in a long time.

“There’s a lot of things contributing,” explained Godfrey. “A lot of pent-up desire to get out, stimulus money, tax return money and just available cash. And the people coming in are spending the money.”

Even though some casinos like WaterView will let the masks be optional, they say they won’t slow anything with cleaning protocols.

“We believe that people who did come back saw that we were taking the restrictions and precautions seriously and make sure that this would be a safe place for them to play,” said Hudson.

Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs announced Friday he is extending his civil emergency order that includes a mask mandate for the next two weeks. We called the Mayor to seek clarification and he says that does NOT apply to the casinos. But casinos in the River City are interpreting the next steps differently

Ameristar Vicksburg:

“Per Mississippi Gaming Commission guidance, we will be removing current COVID restrictions, including mask mandates, beginning at 5pm today. Mask usage for team members and guests will be optional, however we will continue to encourage anyone that has not been vaccinated to continue to wear a mask and practice social distancing.”

Casino Vicksburg:

“In terms of Casino Vicksburg’s mask policy, they we will continue to follow the mayors guidelines that he has put in effect until May 15 at this time.”

UPDATE from 5/1/21: “Our mask mandate is lifted now. It is optional for employees and customers to wear a face mask now moving forward.”

WaterView Casino and Hotel:

“Following the Mississippi Gaming Commission’s announcement, beginning at 5:01pm today, April 30th, WaterView guests and team members will have the option to wear a mask or not.”

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