Irma Blasts Casinos
Just weeks after Hurricane Harvey impacted casinos in Louisiana and Oklahoma, a monster storm crept across the Caribbean before making a right turn into Florida and impacting gaming there. Hurricane Irma blew itself out much quicker than Harvey but the damage was done.
Before and during Irma, Atlantis Paradise Island Resort in the Bahamas remained open, but Baha Mar in Nassau evacuated guests. Howard Karawan, president and managing director at Atlantis said, “It is unacceptable and surprising” that Baha Mar “closed its doors to customers and to the community during a storm. As an island resort, we see it as our moral responsibility to shelter our guests and be there to support the community as best we can, not to close our doors on them. I do not believe you should ever close your doors, you have to support the community and we will help whenever we can. I don’t know why a newly built hotel would close. The only time a hotel would close is if it was not built up to standards or the building was not made to sustain potentially bad weather.”
Karawan said during the hurricane Atlantis housed nearly 1,200 guests and 100 employees. He added the resort’s hotels sustained no damage. “We were prepared to keep our guests safe during the storm’s passage and the hotel was fully operational,” he noted.
Baha Mar Senior Vice President of Government and External Affairs Robert Sands said the hotel had already arranged the early departure of “almost 100 percent” of its guests prior to the arrival of the category 4 storm. Sands said Baha Mar’s guests were told to seek alternative “local shelter” if they were unable to leave the Bahamas.
Baha Mar President Graeme Davis said, “Our team did an exceptional job of preparing Baha Mar for the storm. I am personally grateful for their tremendous efforts in executing our emergency response plan, and in ensuring the safety of our guests and associates. Now, with the passage of the storm through the Caribbean, we are ready to resume full hotel, casino and retail operations.”
He added Baha Mar is “working with government authorities as well as local aid organizations to provide financial and other assistance to support those communities in need and to aid our community here in New Providence.”
New Providence sustained minimal damage due to Irma, but the hurricane caused catastrophic damage in several Caribbean islands, killing at least 27 people and leaving thousands homeless.
In south Florida, most gambling venues have reopened following Hurricane Irma, but Mardi Gras Casino in Hallandale Beach reported “major” damage and will remain closed until further notice.
Miccosukee Resort & Gaming in Miami and the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood remained open during the hurricane.
Seminole Gaming Chief Executive Officer James Allen reported the restaurants at Hard Rock in Hollywood served large numbers of people during the storm.
“We’re always proud of our staff, and their enthusiastic commitment to the tribe. But certainly this storm was a new challenge. They not only rose to expectations. They exceeded them. Certainly when the winds were projected to approach 200 miles per hour it was a bit concerning, but obviously, it didn’t happen,” Allen said.
Seminole Classic in Hollywood and Seminole Coconut Creek closed during Hurricane Irma and have since reopened. Allen said Irma at one point was predicted to slam the Tampa area, including the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, but the hurricane diminished before reaching the area.
Thoroughbred racing has resumed at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach. General Manager P.J. Campo said, “Except for some minor damage to roof shingles on our older barns, we’re ready to go.” Campo said races were suspended while the venue waited for “outside resources and utilities in the South Florida area like power, gas and cleanup, to catch up.”
The Florida Lottery also was affected by the hurricane, and suspended its lower-profile daily draw games, such as Pick 2, on Sunday and Monday. Make-up drawings were held for people holding tickets for those games.