BILOXI, Miss. (AP) — Six of the 12 casinos on the Mississippi Gulf Coast started reopening Thursday evening, with Hurricane Isaac having done little physical damage to the engine of the area's tourism industry.
Casinos and other business owners say they hope business might bounce back over the Labor Day weekend, giving them some revenue. Workers scurried to clean up at casinos and downtown Biloxi restaurants Thursday, with storm surge having receded from U.S. Highway 90.
The two casinos in Hancock County closed Monday, and the 10 in Harrison County were ordered to close Tuesday as Isaac was still in the Gulf of Mexico. Mississippi law requires the casinos to be over or near the water.
Island View Casino Resort in Gulfport and five casinos in Biloxi — Beau Rivage, Hard Rock, Isle of Capri, IP and Treasure Bay — opened Thursday evening.
Five others plan to open Friday, while the Silver Slipper in Waveland plans to open Saturday.
Robbie Daniel, 55, an industrial engineer, and his wife, Kathi, a retired teacher, live in a house on the Tchoutacabouffa River in Biloxi, and haven't left home since Tuesday. Their house is on stilts and was surrounded by chest-deep water.
Kathi Daniel saw online Thursday that casinos could be opening so they hopped in a kayak, paddled to their car on higher ground and drove to Island View in Gulfport.
"Tired of sitting there watching rain," she said, when asked why she decided to venture out.
Her husband nodded.
"When you're surrounded by water day after day it gets a little hectic," he said.
Thursday was back-to-work day in Harrison County — the Mississippi coast's most populous. Traffic flowed and restaurants and stores reopened, even though rain still squalled at times, many traffic signals weren't working and rivers continued to swell.
The other two coast counties could be slower to rebound. Jackson County was experiencing flooding driven by heavy rain, and storm surge was still receding Thursday in Hancock County.
Spokeswoman Jill Alexander said the Isle of Capri casino, which is furthest out on the point where Biloxi Bay flows into the Gulf of Mexico, hadn't been damaged. That's in part because the casino's building is 34 feet above the ground. Alexander said there was 18 feet of storm surge under the casino at one point.
"We are in cleanup mode and are just waiting for permission from the Mississippi Gaming Commission to reopen," she said.
The same cleanup was going on at Biloxi's other gambling halls.
Workers at the Hard Rock swept up waterborne debris that had settled on the lawn. At the Grand Casino, workers were pumping water out of a service level into a storm drain. At Boomtown, on Biloxi's back bay, a worker blew leaves out of the parking lot.