Mississippi Gaming Revenues Exceed $3B in 2022: Larry Gregory speaks to Vicksburg-Warren Chamber of Commerce

Published 3:31 pm Thursday, May 18, 2023

Larry Gregory, Mississippi Gaming and Hospitality Association executive director, spoke to members of the Vicksburg-Warren Chamber of Commerce during Wednesday’s monthly luncheon.

“Thirty years after the first casino opened its doors, gaming has become a major revenue source for the state of Mississippi, with 2022 revenues exceeding $3 billion,” Gregory said. “That’s huge.”

Speaking at the chamber’s monthly luncheon Wednesday, Gregory broke down the latest revenue figures and gave a brief history of the gaming industry in Mississippi.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

According to Gregory, gaming revenue hit $3.3 billion in Mississippi in 2022, the most recent numbers available.

“We’re looking at $2.5 billion, which was gross gaming revenue, and $800 million that was nongaming, which is just as important — the hotels and the food and all the other things that our industry provides statewide.”

Gregory said the state’s central region, which includes Vicksburg, had $364 million in revenue during the same period; with $329 million in gross revenue and $35 million from nongaming revenue, adding gaming was also responsible for 1,620 employees in the central region, primarily in Vicksburg.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years,” he said, pointing out that the first casino in Mississippi, the Isle of Capri in Biloxi, the first legalized gambling in Mississippi, opened Aug. 1, 1992.

But back when legalized gambling was being introduced, Gregory said, “It was very difficult for people to accept gambling and they just thought it was going to bring organized crime at the time.

“I was at the gaming commission and heard just some of them (opposition); just awful letters that I received,” he said. “I remember who said, ‘We don’t want it.’”

Since then, Gregory said, he believes the gaming industry in Mississippi has proven over the years to be a good corporate citizen.

“We’ve done well in our communities; we’re proud,” he said, adding that officials from other states wanting to open casinos are coming to Mississippi and asking, “‘How did you do that?’ They want to replicate Mississippi.”

“It was very simple,” he said. “We patterned our laws to Nevada’s. We said when we got into the business, ‘Hey, they know how to do it.’ We had a very favorable tax rate; we had 8 percent that goes to the general fund for the state and 4 percent to the locals. And that was in ’93; this past year in 2022 it was 8 percent and 4 percent.”

By keeping the tax rate level Gregory said, casinos have been able to make capital investments into hotels and other facilities.

“We wanted people to come, we wanted people to see Vicksburg; experience the other things within the community,” he said.

One thing Gregory said he enjoys seeing is photographs of casinos and their employees going into the communities and providing volunteer services.

“I know a couple of things here that we read about and see on our local channel in Jackson is the spring playing golf tournament at the WaterView that they do,” he said. “I know Riverwalk does the cancer support, and then the Chili for Children. We really strive to give back to the communities and we want the communities to know we’re good corporate citizens.”

Gregory also discussed the opening of the Tunica casinos, the effect of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast, Mississippi River floods and the pandemic’s effect on gaming.

“We just didn’t think we could come back from Katrina,” he said.

He said then-Gov. Haley Barbour sent a group of officials to talk to casino executives about returning to the Coast after the storm.

“Each one said, ‘Yes, we’re committed; we’re coming back,’” Gregory said. “But every one of them said, ‘However, we’re not coming back to the same set of circumstances, which is on water; y’all are going to have to change that law.’”

So, the state legislature changed the gaming laws to allow landside casinos.

“There was a lot of controversies, but it was changed and then the landscape of the Coast, and I think it saved the Coast,” Gregory said. “Everything came back bigger and better for what it was. That was a momentous change in the gambling history and it’s beautiful what they did.

“We’ve been through some times and Mississippi has been through the floods and Katrina and everything else and in between,” he added. “The pandemic — we really didn’t think we were going to come out of that. We closed it down and then I think we were the first business, the very first business the governor allowed to open back up (after the pandemic). The Gulf Coast, actually, the year after the COVID pandemic, they had their best year on record; they had a $2.6 billion year and that was the best year on record since ’94.”

Beyond the casinos’ significant tax contribution, Gregory said, “The industry is embedded in local communities, bolstering economic development through job creation, supporting local charities and nonprofits and setting the standard on corporate responsibility.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

email author More by John