BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Beginning Friday at 5 p.m., casinos in Mississippi will be able to determine what, if any, COVID-19 safety protocols that will be implemented in their businesses.
The Mississippi Gaming Commission on Thursday announced that they will no longer implement any restrictions, including masks and social distancing.
Excitement spread across the coast on Thursday after casinos received the news. However, casinos are now approaching whether or not to implement restrictions in different ways.
MGM Resorts will continue to require masks and social distancing in all of its casinos, including the Beau Rivage in Biloxi.
“For the safety of our employees and guests, we will continue to require masks at MGM Resorts properties at this time. 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,” said the Beau’s regional communications director Mary Cracchiollo Spain in a written statement.
At the Scarlet Pearl, the gaming commission’s announcement was a celebration.
“(Friday) at 5 p.m., we’re like Mr. Rogers in the neighborhood,” said Scarlet Pearl CEO LuAnn Pappas. “It’s the best day ever. We are going to lift the mask mandate and stop taking temperatures.”
Employees and guests are still welcome to wear masks if it makes them feel safer, stressed Pappas.
“Any associate that wants to continue to wear the masks may absolutely do so,” she said. “We are going to keep the cleaning protocols because our guests have learned to love their slot machine getting cleaned between each session.”
Other casinos are taking the same or a similar approach as the Scarlet Pearl by allowing employees and guests to decide for themselves if they want to wear a mask or not.
At the Palace Casino Resort, that decision will be left up to employees. Like Pappas, the Palace’s general manager Keith Crosby is viewing the repeal of restrictions as a sign of progress.
“The first reaction is a sigh of relief that we got a clear indication that our diligence with cleanliness, social distancing, wearing masks and, more importantly, getting vaccinated has paid off,” said Crosby.
At the Treasure Bay, masks will no longer be required but other safety protocols, like plexiglass barriers and limited seating at some table games, will still be implemented.
Most casino guests echoed that sentiment, with some saying they are excited to see masks go away.
“I think a lot of people will be relieved because they don’t have to pull up their mask every five seconds,” said Amanda Simpson, who was visiting the Palace. “I am personally excited because this does get frustrating.”
The letter from the gaming commission released Thursday states all restrictions related to COVID-19 that were previously mandated on March 4 will be canceled on April 30 at 5 p.m. statewide.
On March 4, 2021, the gaming commission relaxed some of its restrictions on occupancy but still required masks and social distancing inside casinos.
Casinos are still required to abide by state and local rules for ordinances pertaining to COVID-19.