Cash from casino taxes falls, mimics state figures

Published 12:01 am Saturday, June 19, 2010

Gaming taxes paid by Vicksburg’s five casinos to the city, county and local school district were down 2.9 percent in May compared to last year, in step with lower winnings reported by Mississippi’s 30 state-licensed casinos last month.

Proceeds from the 3.2 percent revenue tax collected from local casinos — of which the city gets 65 percent, Warren County 25 percent and the school district 10 percent — were roughly $657,365 in May, compared to $677,000 in the May report a year ago.

A second revenue tax — a 0.8 percent share of the state’s 8.8 percent revenue tax — netted about $164,341 for the city and county, which splits the funds nearly evenly based on populations. Last May, the tax netted about $5,000 more than this year.

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While local collections lagged in May, they were improved from the 6.6 percent decline in April revenues compared to 2009. Year to date, gaming tax revenues paid by Vicksburg’s casinos are off by about 6.5 percent — from $6.49 million in 2009 to $6.07 million this year. The fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.

Mississippi’s 30 state-licensed casinos boosted their winnings from gamblers a bit in May despite the threat to tourism from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Players left behind $203.2 million, up from $198.2 million in April, the Mississippi State Tax Commission reported this week.

However, the numbers still lagged behind those posted before the economic meltdown of 2008, which has cut travel and discretionary spending. The latest figure was down 8.8 percent from the $227.2 million in May 2009 and down 13.8 percent from $235.7 million won in May 2008.

Along the coast, 11 casinos took in $95.4 million last month, up from $92.5 million in April. But that total lagged behind the $97.7 million won in May 2009 and $107.5 million won in May 2008.

The figures do not include the two Indian reservation casinos in the state, which are not required to report.

The 19 casinos along the Mississippi River, including Tunica, Vicksburg, Greenville, Lula and Natchez, won $107.9 million last month, up from $105.7 million in April, but falling behind the $125 million won in May 2009 and $128.2 million won in May 2008.

So far having avoided soiling of its coastal beaches, Mississippi has started a national marketing campaign to promote the state as a tourist destination, funded by $15 million from BP. Alabama and Louisiana also are getting $15 million each, while $25 million has been earmarked for Florida.

However, Richard Forester, executive director of the Harrison County Tourism Commission, said the casinos — unlike other tourist attractions such as beaches — aren’t as threatened by either the actual oil or public fears of planning a vacation to the coast.

“The majority of the people who come here for gaming reasons never set foot on the beach,” Forester said. “There’s no oil on the casino floor.”

Mississippi’s overall drop in casino winnings over the past two years has mirrored other gambling states, including neighboring Louisiana.

Louisiana’s 18 state-licensed casinos took in $203.6 million in May, down 9.3 percent from May 2009 and 13.4 percent from May 2008. Nevada’s revenue in April, the latest month for which figures are available, was down 18.9 percent from April 2008. New Jersey casino revenue fell 29 percent from May 2008 to May 2010.