Miss. casino revenue falls in December and year

Jan 24, 2014 11:56 AM

A dismal December closed out another year of declining revenue at Mississippi casinos.

Statewide casino revenue fell 9.5 percent from December 2012 to $168.3 million in the last month of 2013, according to Mississippi Department of Revenue figures.

The 12 coastal casinos won $85.6 million from gamblers, down 5.2 percent from December 2012. The 18 river casinos from Tunica to Natchez won $82.7 million, down 13.5 percent from a year earlier.

The numbers exclude Choctaw Indian casinos, which aren’t required to report winnings to the state.

Revenue statewide fell 5.1 percent for year to $2.14 billion. After peaking at nearly $2.9 billion in 2007, Mississippi casinos in 2013 won less than they did in 1997. Casinos have cut 8,500 jobs since 2007 to reduce costs and bolster profits. Jobs are down by 15,000 since 2000.

Those job cuts continue. For example, Tunica’s Gold Strike Casino, owned by MGM Resorts International, told the Mississippi Department of Employment Security in December that it laid off 33 employees as of Jan. 14. At the end of the summer of 2013, Gold Strike reported 1,326 casino and hotel employees, down from 1,852 at the same point in 2007.

Revenue at Mississippi casinos actually rose during 2012, but that was mainly a rebound from the Mississippi River flood of 2011, which closed some casinos for weeks. But the flood bolstered competition from gambling at two racetracks in Arkansas, which have continued to grow since. Arkansas gambling revenue rose 20 percent to $140 million in 2013, state officials there report.

Last week, Southland Park in West Memphis, Ark., announced that it would spend $37.4 million to expand its casino-style gambling area by 41,000 square feet by the end of the year, with plans to hire 60 employees. Officials said the gambling hall would be able to hold 2,000 electronic games of skill, the kinds of machines allowed in the state.

Industry officials believe that most of the money lost at the West Memphis greyhound track is money that doesn’t flow to Tunica’s nine casinos. And growth at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs hurts the Isle of Capri casino in Lula, which has long focused on Arkansas gamblers.

The higher competitive pressure is reflected in greater yearly declines among river-region casinos, which saw revenue fall 7.5 percent. Coast casinos have seen a gentler decline.

Gamblers lost $202.2 million to state-licensed Louisiana casinos in December, down 4.4 percent from a year earlier. Lake Charles was the state’s strongest market, while New Orleans was its weakest.

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