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Business begins to roll in for Magnolia Bluffs Casino

By Patrick Murphy & Sabrina Robertson

NATCHEZ — The usual patron’s of the Magnolia Bluffs Casino have slowly started to trickle back in since the casino reopened its doors last week.

Under the direction of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, Magnolia Bluffs had a forced closure on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17 — as did every other casino in the state to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Casinos statewide reopened for business on May 21.

Willie Minor, Magnolia Bluffs director of operations, said they’ve seen a few “regulars” coming back to the slots and tables.

“Things are starting to pick up for us,” he said. “We are beginning to see our regular patrons trickle back in and that’s a good thing.”

Before closing, Minor said Magnolia Bluffs add an average of 800 patrons on weekdays and approximately 2,000 on weekends.

Magnolia Bluffs now as has an average of 500 patrons per day since reopening, Minor said.

Many machines have been cut off to provide a 6-foot distance between players while keeping the most popular games on the floor.

“We kept all of our most popular (games) on the floor. There was something that we implemented this week. We are allowing our patrons to come in and find out if their favorite game is back in service. … We kept our most popular table games open: Black Jack, three-card poker and craps,” he said.

Before entering the casino, every patron has their temperature taken and are asked a set of questions, Minor said.

“We’re not allowing anyone with a fever into the casino,” he said. “… A lot of our patrons feel like they are safe coming in because they are seeing how we are taking it (the virus) seriously and the cleaning process.”

The buffet has also reopened but with a shorter list of food items on the menu, Food and Beverage Director Tracey Bennett said.

“We have opened up the buffet but are serving the bistro items out there to help us keep a 6-foot distance between customers,” she said. “We only have four options off of our bistro menu — chicken salad, fish basket, hamburger and cheeseburger and chicken wings. We also have a Blue Plate Special mix up, where we offer a soul food or comfort food item that changes daily — jambalaya, fried chicken, etc.”

Bennett said the bar and buffet areas have also implemented quite a few changes for public health and safety: plexiglass between all of the servers and customers, plastic cups and utensils, tables moved further apart, ropes between lines of patrons and a lot of masks and hand sanitizer.

“We all have facemasks on and are using the hand sanitizer at an unbelievable rate, both at the front of the house and the back of the house, all of our self-serving stations were taken down so any drinks have to come from a bartender or server,” she said.

“Business has not been as it was. We are considered a retirement community so I believe people are being more cautious, which is a good thing. It gives us a chance to get ready to handle more customers, kind of like a soft reopening. We’re getting to learn as we go. … Public safety is our top priority, more so than making money. With every safety precaution we’ve been asked to do, we’ve taken it one step farther. We don’t even allow smoking inside the casino anymore, which is just one more way we can keep from spreading any sickness around.”