Casinos' Destruction Leaves Thousands Jobless

Biloxi's Hard Rock hotel and casino.

Biloxi's Hard Rock hotel and casino was scheduled to open the Tuesday after Katrina struck. Scott Horsley, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Scott Horsley, NPR
A displaced floating casino barge.

Floating casino barges like this one were heavily damaged by the hurricane. Some operators now hope Mississippi will relax its laws to allow gambling on land. Scott Horsley, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Scott Horsley, NPR
Waffle House sign: 'We'll Be Back!'

Restaurants and other businesses that once catered Biloxi's beachfront casino-goers were flattened by Hurricane Katrina. Scott Horsley, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Scott Horsley, NPR

The state unemployment office in Biloxi, Miss., re-opened this week for the first time since Hurricane Katrina ripped through town. With many local jobs blown away by the storm, the office quickly drew a crowd. Even before the hurricane, Mississippi's unemployment rate was above the national average, and it's sure to climb.

There's no word yet when the Hard Rock Casino or 11 other Gulf Coast casinos might re-open. The area's floating-barge casinos were wiped out. Some casino owners hope the state relaxes regulations that currently allow gambling only on the water.

The storm wiped out not only 14,000 casino jobs, but thousands more in the surrounding businesses. Laurie Dubaz worked as a bartender across the street from several big casinos. She says the $210 per week she'll get from the state in disaster relief is nothing compared to what she used to make. Nevertheless, Dubaz plans to remain in her flood-damaged home in Biloxi.

"I really don't want to, but I don't know where we're going to get jobs at," she says. "Not just the casinos. The bars are gone. So I doubt if I'll get anything... It's been a nightmare."

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