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Howard Stutz

Several Gulf Coast casinos to halt operations because of storm's pending landfall

28 August 2012

The prospects of a hurricane striking the Gulf Coast have caused several casinos in New Orleans to halt operations.

Harrah's New Orleans Casino, Boyd Gaming Corp.'s Treasure Chest Casino, and Pinnacle Entertainment's Boomtown Casino New Orleans will voluntarily close indefinitely Monday until further notice.

The shutdowns are taking place because of Tropical Storm Isaac's uncertain path as it approaches the Gulf Coast. Isaac is expected to be upgraded to a hurricane today.

The Gulf Coast region marks the seven-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on Wednesday. The storm and its subsequent flooding devastated New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, inflicting heavy damage on casinos.

The closures currently do not extend into the Mississippi casino markets of Biloxi, Gulfport and Bay St. Louis.

Harrah's New Orleans, which is owned by Caesars Entertainment Corp. and is the state's only land-based casino, will close just before midnight local time. Boomtown New Orleans, which is in the town of Harvey along the Mississippi River, will close at 3 a.m.

Caesars Entertainment Corp. spokesman Gary Thompson said a hotel adjacent to Harrah's New Orleans will remain open unless a mandatory evacuation of the city is ordered.

The company's Grand Casino in Biloxi is remaining open.

"We're just going to continue to monitor the situation," Thompson said.

The Treasure Chest casino in the New Orleans suburb of Kenner was to be closed at 3 p.m. central time. The casino-only property is next to a levee, and the access gates are being closed. Boyd Gaming also operates casinos in western and northern Louisiana and the IP in Biloxi, Miss.

Boyd spokesman David Strow said none of the other Gulf Coast properties have been affected by closures.

Boomtown General Manager Barry Regula said in a statement that guest and employee safety is the company's focus.

"With a hurricane warning now in place and a less than certain storm track, closing allows us to better prepare for the threat of strong winds and heavy rain," Regula said.

Earlier Monday, Las Vegas-based Pinnacle Entertainment postponed Wednesday's planned opening of the $368 million L'Auberge Baton Rouge.

The final step in the formal licensing and approval process for the hotel-casino was delayed as Louisiana State Police personnel who issue the final regulatory approval for opening have been diverted because of the storm. A new opening date was not announced for the hotel-casino, which overlooks the Mississippi River in Louisiana's capital.

"Our first concern is the safety of our guests and team members," Pinnacle Chief Executive Officer Anthony Sanfilippo said in a statement. "We remain at the ready to open L'Auberge when it is clear Tropical Storm Isaac is no longer a threat and pending this one final regulatory approval."

In a note to investors, Union Gaming Group managing director Bill Lerner said the delay in opening L'Auberge Baton Rouge wasn't a concern.

"We would expect other Gulf Coast casinos to potentially close for a few days, depending on the likely path of Tropical Storm Isaac," Lerner said. "[It] is just par for the course for doing business in the region during hurricane season."