For anyone who has watched the stunning video that has come from the Hurricane Katrina ravaged Gulf Coast, it is plainly evident that things there will not be "normal" for some time to come. Harrah's has been proactive in recognizing this fact and, while closing their operations in that area, has also shown that it will be a force in helping its staff and in the rebuilding of the affected areas.
As to be expected, Harrah's has closed its operations at the Grand Casinos in both Biloxi and Gulfport until further notice. The full brunt of Hurricane Katrina struck those locations the hardest and it will be a very long time before those locations can be reconstructed. Harrah's New Orleans operations have been shut down for the foreseeable future due to the failure of the levees that protect the city. While storm damage was evident, the resulting flooding from the ruptured levees to the north of New Orleans have approximately 80% of the city under water, in some places up to twenty to thirty feet. At the earliest, according to Harrah's, its New Orleans casino will be closed until September 30th.
In an unprecedented step, Harrah's is taking the concerns and problems of their nearly 6,000 employees in that area to its heart. In an effort to alleviate the struggles that those employees will face, Harrah's will continue to provide their employees their base pay for the next ninety days. "Our main priority is for our employees to focus on taking care of themselves and their loved ones," said Gary Loveman, Harrah's Entertainment Chairman, CEO and president.
To take their dedication to the relief effort even further, Harrah's has also announced the creation of the Harrah's Employee Recovery Fund, which is being seeded with a $1 million grant from the Harrah's Foundation. In addition, Harrah's is including its employees at other Harrah's locations in the relief effort by providing them with the ability to make payroll deductions to contribute to the fund.
"In addition to providing immediate relief, the Harrah's Employee Recovery Fund will help our employees with the long rebuilding task," continued Loveman. "Along with the Harrah's Foundation grant to the recovery fund, we began distributing payroll deduction contribution forms to all of our nearly 100,000 Harrah's employees nationwide so they have the opportunity to pitch in and support the relief efforts. I'm asking all of Harrah's business partners to join us with their contributions to this important recovery fund."
While Harrah's is stepping forward to assist and protect their employees, they are not ignoring the surrounding communities either. The Convention Center of the Grand Casino Tunica has been opened up as a refugee shelter for anyone severely affected by the massive storm. The properties that Harrah's also has in Bossier City and Lake Charles, LA, have been made available as overflow shelters if the American Red Cross, whom Harrah's officials have been working closely with, deem it to be necessary. There are many other forms of assistance coming, to be administered by Harrah's Strategic Sourcing Team.
Harrah's must be applauded for taking so many steps to aide their stricken employees and to assist their hometowns. While many look at corporations as faceless entities that have no soul, Harrah's has stepped above and beyond in its assistance to not only its workers but the community at large. If the poker community can do the same, then maybe a time of tremendous strife for so many can be alleviated, if not forgotten.