By The Vicksburg Post
Vicksburg, Miss. —
Twenty years ago this week, Isle of Capri opened the first casino in Vicksburg to an excited customer base that filled its parking lot near the confluence of the Mississippi River and the Yazoo Diversion Canal.
Harrah’s opened the city’s second casino three months later, to be followed by Ameristar and Rainbow within eight months. A second wave of casino proposals in the 2000s yielded one more, Riverwalk, in 2008.
The fact that the gaming industry in Mississippi has operated smoothly and with barely a hint of major scandal is good for the state. In Vicksburg and Warren County, an additional $9 million to $10 million a year for local government and public schools that wasn’t there before the casinos came has made the experience all the sweeter.
That annual revenue has remained in the millions despite recession and a slow recovery the past five years. It’s helped local government keep pace with erosion below its roads and keep them paved, particularly in the county.
Imagine those property taxes without the casinos. The $7 to $12 hikes of the past two years would be considered a break compared to what’s required to help the school system meet minimum standards, keep roads paved and keep more than 1,700 people in the region gainfully employed.
Increased competition from other states where gaming has expanded or legalized for the first time is the biggest challenge for Mississippi’s casinos in the next 20 years. In 2012, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and the state of Connecticut passed Mississippi on the list of the nation’s top 20 casino markets.
The guess here is that established gaming and entertainment operators Pinnacle, Isle of Capri, Legends Gaming and Churchill Downs will find ways to stay competitive and keep Vicksburg’s casinos viable for years to come.