Mississippi Lifts Casino Covid Restrictions, but Poker Rooms Still Require Masks

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The Mississippi Gaming Commission rescinded previous COVID-related casino restrictions on Friday, including occupancy limits and a mask mandate for casino workers and patrons. But don’t expect the state’s poker rooms to begin operating maskless any time soon.

Mississippi rescinds casino restrictions
Mississippi’s gaming regulators relaxed mask-wearing rules. But poker rooms are sticking by federal guidelines (at least for now) that still call for masks to keep such gatherings safe. (Image: Mississippi Gaming Commission)

The commission released a statement on Thursday that negated all previous directives, and urged licensees to follow local and state pandemic guidelines instead.

Mississippi’s 36 casinos (and nine poker rooms) went dark in March 2020. They reopened two months later, in May, at 50% capacity and with cleaning protocols in place. But customers weren’t required to wear masks until July.

Poker rooms reopened in October 2020, and played 5-handed. Plexiglass barriers and masks became the norm.

The July 2020 standards were updated in March 2021, upping a casino’s capacity limits to 75%.

Mask mandates to remain in place at Mississippi casinos

Despite the MGC’s lifting of all COVID restrictions, Mississippi casinos seem intent on keeping mask-wearing rules in place, at least for now. At the Imperial Palace in Biloxi, home to a 10-table poker room, the casino will adhere to federal safety standards.

“We’re following the guidelines of the CDC (Center for Disease Control),” an IP Biloxi representative told CardsChat News.

The nearby Beau Rivage Resort & Casino,  put out a statement on its Facebook page on Friday, explaining how this lifting of restrictions won’t yet alter the casino’s protocols:

“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.”
Neither the IP Biloxi nor the Beau Rivage have any tournament series scheduled in the near future.

Mississippi’s slow poker reopening in progress

At the start of 2020, Mississippi had nine poker rooms. But since the pandemic began, only six have reopened.

In the Gulf Coast area, the Hollywood Casino in nearby Bay St. Louis has reopened its small five-table room, but Golden Nugget Biloxi’s nine-table room remains shuttered.

Upstate, the situation is similar. Ameristar Casino Vicksburg has reopened its 10-table room, as has the 14-table Pearl River Resort near Choctaw. But Magnolia Bluffs, near Natchez, has yet to reopen.

In Tunica, Mississippi’s original home for casino poker and a global hotspot some 15 years ago, it’s more of the same. The 25-table room at Horseshoe Casino Tunica, the state’s largest poker room, is open for business, but not so at the nearby Hollywood Casino Tunica, where six tables lie idle.

The Pearl River Casino in Philadelphia, Mississippi, hosted the Pearl River Poker Open in March and experienced record crowds. They’ll be hosting a Summer Series in June.

In July, the first traveling tour to make a post-pandemic stopover in Mississippi occurs, when the RunGood Poker Tour hosts a series in Tunica at the Horseshoe.

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