Who could ever imagine that as horrendous as Hurricane Katrina was when it struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast in August 2005, a “male“ hurricane called Harvey would produce greater destruction 12 years later. We have now – again – witnessed total devastation
The Jersey Shore and New York endured Hurricane Sandy in 2012, but it falls short compared to Texas. The physical property and infrastructure damage could cost $150-$180 billion, excluding the emotional toll. With 19 statewide casinos, Texas has more than 4,335 slots, plus 83 table games. Galveston, along the Gulf Coast, has six. Harvey aimed at other gaming venues, including riverboat casinos as it headed into Louisiana.
Florida has just confronted a destructive situation with Hurricane Irma. And, again, millions, including numerous friends of mine who are full-time residents or vacation home owners, face personal and commercial pain. Dozens of casinos, poker rooms and racetracks may suffer hundreds of millions in damage, regardless of their survival plans. It is too soon to calculate the structural costs and loss of revenues.
However, anyone who doubts the people’s resilience makes a serious mistake. Our “American Spirit” always takes over with financial aid and human assistance pouring in. I come from tough, scrappy people, like many in the arcade and gaming industries. My sister Linda always says, “We grew up with one day to cry over disappointments or tough times, but were expected to carry on the next day.”
I hope my longtime friends and colleagues in those stricken areas can do the same. These are the businesses that employ people from the communities and patronize the types of local taverns and stores where we earned our living.
No one is fooling themselves. There will be huge economic hits for businesses not only from the storms, but also from lost future revenues and possible staff shortages as people rebuild. It’s hard to convince consumers to gamble, dine out or travel when they face untold home and personal expenses.
Homeless people often stay away, which impacts employment. Statistics show that about 20 per cent who left New Orleans in 2005 never returned. Ironically, many relocated to Houston and are now without housing once again.
Reconstruction often takes years. Louisiana and Mississippi certainly understand those challenges, even when assisted by great corporations like MGM, Boyd Gaming and others along the Gulf Coast.
I visited the Biloxi/Gulfport, Mississippi region in August 2011 to evaluate their recovery from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Yes, hundreds of millions had done amazing work in rebuilding their infrastructure, but signs of destruction remained.
Within Texas, Louisiana and Florida, I hope casino operators representing commercial, tribal and cruise ship categories take charge and care for the same neighbors and customers whose hard-earned dollars have supported them. The national associations like the AGA and the AMOA/AAMA – for amusement operators – have already stepped up.
Good for them. We must care for our own.
As you read this column at G2E, which begins on Monday, October 2, the timing has real significance because 2018 could really impact gaming. The first Monday in October is traditionally when the US Supreme Court reconvenes after its summer recess.
After years of failed court battles, the Court will hear arguments for legalizing sports betting beyond Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon. A growing list of sports organizations also recognize the critical need for regulated, honest gaming.
The AGA has filed an Amicus Curiae, or “friend of the court“ brief, defined as a “person with a strong interest…on the subject matter of an action…” Although not a party to the case, these may be filed by private persons concerning matters with a broad public interest. It complements the lawsuit filed by outgoing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and others, against multiple sports associations fighting against legalized sports betting.
Tying this together, my feature in this issue describes how the industry fights corruption, theft and money laundering. The impressive professionals I interviewed clearly know their stuff.