Culture / Travel

Houston Billionaire’s Golden Nugget Casino to be Among First to Reopen Monday — Gambling is Suddenly Back

Tilman Fertitta's Lake Charles Kingdom Jumps Into a Brave New World

BY // 05.13.20

Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta has never been afraid to be the first or one of the firsts to do something. It should be no surprise that he’s jumping in to lead the reopening of casinos as well.

Fertitta’s Golden Nugget Lake Charles is going to be one of the first casinos in Louisiana to reopen its doors this Monday, May 18. It follows South Dakota casinos reopening last weekend, a smattering of Oklahoma casinos which reopened earlier this week and several Arizona casino reopenings planned for Friday.

The Golden Nugget Lake Charles hotel, restaurants, pools and beach areas will reopen this Friday, May 15 at 4 pm. The casino complex’s golf course already has reopened. In-casino gambling is suddenly back — albeit with social distancing and new cleaning guidelines in place.

“We have anxiously awaited this reopening and look forward to welcoming the Lake Charles and surrounding communities back to our hotel and casino,” Fertitta said in a statement. “This is a step in the right direction to getting our employees back to work.”

Fertitta has been a vocal advocate of reopening the economy. He’s one of 39 business leaders on Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Strike Force to Open Texas special advisory council.

Now, one of his mammoth empire’s biggest reopenings will happen in. Louisiana. Golden Nugget Lake Charles has been shut down since March 18 as the world suddenly changed under the coronavirus pandemic.

It remains to be seen what exactly Golden Nugget Lake Charles’ casino will look like on reopening Monday. Or how many of its 1,100 hotel rooms will be filled — or allowed to be filled.

But if the long lines to get into the Oklahoma casinos that reopened with capacity limits are any indication, it’s a good bet that plenty of gamblers will eagerly return for the casino action. Of course, Lake Charles is home to the closest major casinos to Houston.

Book launch event for Tilman Fertitta’s new book Shut Up and Listen!
Tilman Fertitta at his Catch Steak restaurant in Manhattan’s meatpacking district.

Fertitta notes that Golden Nugget Lake Charles will observe CDC, state and regulatory guidelines and take “prudent and essential measures” to maintain a safe and clean environment for visitors and employees.

“We have worked with public health officials and gaming regulators for several weeks now preparing for this reopening,”  says Gerry Del Prete, Golden Nugget’s senior vice president of Gaming Operations. “Our teams are ready and excited to welcome guests and players again.”

The Golden Nugget will require players to wear masks on the casino floor and keep the casino at 25 percent capacity on reopening. It’s a brave new gambling world. And Tilman Fertitta is all in.

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