Casino revenue down locally, across state

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 22, 2001

[05/22/01] Casinos in Vicksburg may be following a statewide trend in generating less money for public treasuries.

An analysis shows casino revenue statewide dropped about 9 percent from March to April.

As indicated by collections of the 3.2 percent tax shared by Vicksburg, Warren County and the Vicksburg Warren School District, revenue at the four casinos here was also down.

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Vicksburg figures show local casinos paid $559,715 in local gaming taxes for the period from March 17 to April 14. For about the same period last year, local collections were $593,473.

The latest monthly figures are the lowest collection since the period Nov. 18 to Dec. 16, which amounted to $540,569.

Statewide, the 30 state-regulated casinos along the Gulf Coast and Mississippi River brought in $222.2 million in April. That compares with $218.3 million in the same month last year, and $243.2 in March, according to new figures from the state Tax Commission.

John Osborne, vice president and general manager of the Hollywood Casino in Tunica, said Monday that people were strapped with larger heating bills during the winter and higher gasoline prices heading into the summer vacation season. He said industry and small company layoffs have also been a factor.

“When you start adding those up, one of the first things you cut out is those entertainment dollars. When you start talking about entertainment dollars, that’s where the gaming industry fits in,” Osborne said.

Osborne said the industry also had one fewer weekend days in April than in March and weekends attract more customers.

Andy Bourland, with the Mississippi Gaming Association, said there is a direct correlation between the downturn in the economy and gaming revenue statewide.

“What you are seeing is that the Mississippi market, as a regional market, is dependent on repeat business. Many of our patrons who have gone two or three times may have reduced that to once or twice. That has a significant impact on the overall revenue numbers,” Bourland said.

He said the revenue figures show revenue overall is up about 1 percent statewide from 2000 for the first four months of 2001. He said the coastal counties have shown a revenue increase of about 5.7 percent, compared with last year while the river counties have experienced a drop of about 1 percent between the first four months of 2001 and 2000.

“There is a stability in the Mississippi market. There is not a good deal of expansion. That’s why the different regions are looking at joint marketing efforts. That is the most important thing for us to attend to,” Bourland said.

The 12 casinos on the coast reported revenue of $94.9 million in April compared with $97.4 million in March and $89.8 million in April 2000.

In Tunica and the river counties, casinos took in $127.2 million last month and $145.7 million in March. In April 2000, they took in $128.5 million.

So far this year, gross casino revenue totals $920.9 million, including $385.2 million from the coast casinos and $535.6 million from gaming houses along the Mississippi River.

Tax Commission figures also showed total tax collections from casinos through 10 months of the fiscal year have totaled $263.1 million, with local governments receiving $87.2 million and the state $132.9 million. The remainder goes into a casino road and bond fund.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.