City Eyes Impact of Casino Closures, more Biloxi News

From:  City of Biloxi    3/118/2020   GCN

"We're evaluating every aspect of our city finances," Mayor Andrew "FoFo" Gilich said today, hours after casino resorts in Biloxi and across the state closed to minimize the threat of spreading the coronavirus.

The city's annual budget -- about $66 million for operations and another $18 million for water and sewer services -- had projected almost $20 million in gaming tax revenue from the city's nine casinos in the current fiscal year.

"We're certainly aware of the need to be deliver services that people expect," Gilich said, "and we're also aware of the need to have people to deliver those services.

"It's a fluid health and economic situation, and as we move forward we're making the best decisions based on the best information we have."

The casino resort industry, which employs between 8,000 and 10,000 people in Biloxi, plays a huge role in attracting nearly six million people to the city each year. The Mississippi Gaming Commission on Monday ordered all casinos to close by midnight and remain closed until further notice. The commission's emergency order said the threat of COVID-19 will be evaluated daily to determine a re-open date.

In addition to the closure of casinos, the city was considering the impact of closing the local schools on city departments, where many workers have children in school.

"We're working through the issues," said Chief Administrative Officer Mike Leonard. "Our departments, particularly first responders, are continuing to do the jobs they are expected to do."

But, Leonard added: "The loss of casino gaming tax and sales tax revenue means Biloxi must make adjustments to balance the 2020 budget. That will impact all city departments."

See who relies on the gaming tax revenue
See the closure order

First responders develop new protocols

Two-thirds of the 7,000 calls to the Biloxi Fire Department in a typical year are medical emergencies, and the threat of the coronavirus means 911 dispatchers will be asking more questions as they roll first responders to calls for help.

"It's really a matter of protecting our first responders and making sure we don't do anything that might spread the threat of this virus," said Biloxi Fire Chief Joe Boney. "Our dispatchers are asking questions about a person's current conditions, whether they have a fever, if they have recently traveled, etcetera, to make sure we have a good read on the situation."

AMR, the local-contracted ambulance service, "is taking the lead on cases that could be virus-related," Boney said. "Our firefighters will certainly be there, and certainly will take action if a person is in distress."

Added Biloxi Police Chief John Miller: "The public needs to know that when you dial 911 someone is going to be there for help. You're going to have Biloxi Police, Biloxi Fire and AMR, just as you always have. Our people are just going to be more sensitive to the issues."

News & notes: Council replays, schedule updates

Council replay: Replays of today's two Biloxi City Council meetings are now on the city's YouTube page. To see the meetings, click here. The meetings also air on BTV daily at 9 a.m., 9 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Ward 6 meeting: Ward 6 Councilmember Kenny Glavan conducted a ward meeting -- with briefings on the coronavirus and other issues -- Monday night but no in-person audience. Instead, Glavan and department directors presented their respective reports for online audiences. To see the meeting, click here.

Mardi Gras Museum: The Coastal Mississippi Mardi Gras in downtown Biloxi has announced that it is temporarily closing.

Community Market: The Charles R. Hegwood Community Market, which usually takes place under the I-110 off Howard and Hopkins on Tuesdays and Thursday, has closed until further notice.

Easter events: The Biloxi Parks & Recreation Department has canceled its Easter events and Biloxi Excel by 5 has canceled its Hop the Trail to Bunny Land which was scheduled to take place this weekend.

Coronavirus page: The city's coronavirus page now contains an archive of city news stories about the coronavirus. To see the page, click here.

Released by Vincent Creel and Cecilia Dobbs Walton