Casinos are in a ‘great crab war’
The first thing many people do at the casino buffets in South Mississippi is devour a plate of steamed crab legs, but now there’s a catch as the price of crab legs soars.
Crab legs are limited to weekends only at many of the casino buffets. And at IP Casino Biloxi and Hard Rock Casino Biloxi you’ll now pay a little extra if you want crab legs.
Duncan McKenzie, general manager of IP Casino, said the price of the buffet recently was lowered to $24.99, so people who don’t eat crab aren’t being penalized.
They still offer rock crab on the buffet at IP, and for those who want crab legs, Crab Grab is an add-on that lets people choose from a bucket of Dungeness or snow crag legs for $5 a pound or $9 for two pounds.
“If you buy the bucket it’s the same price as before,” he said.
The price Palace Casino Biloxi paid buying in bulk for crab legs rose from $5 a pound in May to $8.45 a pound by July, said general manager Keith Crosby, an almost 70 percent increase.
“Sadly I don’t think its going to get better,” he said, and he thinks the other casinos may have to follow IP Casino and charge extra for crab legs.
“We actually discussed at length the exact same scenario,” he said, in an effort to avoid people who are not eating crab legs paying for people who are.
Crosby said people are startled when they see the price of crab legs on the menus at seafood restaurants at Gulf Shores, Alabama, and along the Gulf Coast.
“That’s what it costs,” he said. “What we are charging is still a good deal.”
Years ago casino operators in South Mississippi put crab legs on the buffets to bring people in, and Crosby said that is how they got into “this predicament.” Although in recent years the casinos cut back the number of days they feature crab legs on the buffets, “I think the general public assumes they’ll be available on the weekend,” he said.
He recalls how the big promotion at Las Vegas casinos at one time was a 99 cent shrimp cocktail. It had three big shrimp, he said, “Which we know here costs less than $1.”
Iowa casinos imported the shrimp and charged the same.
“For $1 everyone thought it was a great deal,” he recalls.
As to why the prices are rising, a recent report by the United Nationals Food and Agriculture organization notes decreasing supply and strong demand globally, especially for Dungeness crab. A report by The Cordova Times in Alaska notes there has been very strong competition between U.S. and Japanese buyers for snow crab. And crabs aren’t the only ones, a New York Times article earlier this year described how China’s appetite for seafood and overfishing in general is affecting many seafood stocks.
Get your crab legs
Beau Rivage — Crag legs Friday ($26.99) and Saturday Seafood Extravaganza ($29.99) with crab legs, crawfish, oysters Rockefeller, stuffed crab
Boomtown Casino Biloxi — Seafood buffet with Dungeness crab Friday night and all day Saturday. ($27.99 with card, $29.99 without)
Golden Nugget — Snow crab Thursday ($29.99); Dungeness and snow crab Friday, Saturday and Sunday dinner ($33.99)
Hard Rock Casino Biloxi — Friday and Saturday Seafood Buffet with Royal Red shrimp ($25.99) with crab legs ($29.99). Late Nite Discount $5 off Friday and Saturday from 9:30 p.m. to close.
Harrah’s Gulf Coast — Crab leg dinner Friday, Saturday, Sunday ($29.99 with card, $31.99 without)
Hollywood Casino Gulf Coast — Dungeness and snow crab legs Friday night and all day Saturday and Sunday ($27.99)
IP Casino Resort — Rock crab with buffet Friday, Saturday, Sunday ($24.99). To add Dungeness or snow crab legs is $5 extra for a 1-pound bucket or $9 for 2 pounds.
Island View Casino — Crab legs nightly ($24.99)
Palace Casino Resort — Crab leg dinner Friday and Saturday ($27 with card, $29 without)
Scarlet Pearl Casino — Dungeness crab leg dinner Friday and Saturday ($29.99)
Silver Slipper Casino — Dungeness crab and jumbo shrimp nightly ($27.99 with card, $29.95 without)
Treasure Bay Casino — Dungeness crab nightly ($23.99 with card, $25.99 without)