Miss. records drop in casino revenue in ’08

Published 11:54 pm Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mississippi casino gambling revenue in 2008 fell to $2.72 billion, down about 5.9 percent from a year ago.

The drop was not unexpected. Regulators and industry watchers had expected a downturn with the sluggish economy and people being more careful with spending.

Nationally, according to the American Gaming Association, casinos had reported earnings down 3.6 percent in the first 11 months of 2008 compared to 2007.

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Mississippi State Tax Commission figures released Wednesday show coastal casinos took in $1.26 billion in 2008 compared to $1.3 billion in 2007. Along the Mississippi River, casinos reported revenue of $1.46 billion compared to $1.59 billion a year ago.

“Notably overall numbers at the midway point (June 2008) were actually up slightly over 2007,” said Scott King, director of research and policy at the Gulf Coast Business Council in Gulfport. “This underscores what other indicators, such as sales tax diversions and employment levels are suggesting: that our slowdown really started to impact us closer to September.

He also predicted that over the next several months, “our year-over-year data for each month will continue to see slight declines leading up to the summer months.”

Casino revenue, or “win,” is the net amount of money won from gamblers. It is not profit.

The gross earnings figure represents casino revenue only — separate from hotel, restaurant or bar revenues generated by the resorts.

Coastal casinos took in $95.6 million in December while river casinos had revenue of $109.1 million. Both figures were down from December 2007 when there were 29 state-regulated casinos. Mississippi’s 30th casino — the Riverwalk in Vicksburg — opened in late October and its earnings were reflected in November and December reports.

“Gross gaming revenues for 2008 were still better than any one year prior to Hurricane Katrina, and considering that the Mississippi Gulf Coast gaming market is still at overall supply levels (tables and slots) of 85 percent pre-Katrina and overall hotel room supply of around 75 percent, this is an impressive feat,” King said.

Although casinos along the Mississippi Gulf Coast weathered the recent slowdown relatively well, King said, economists and gambling experts are going to watch performance in the coming months “especially since there is a chance that some of the winter market, which is comprised of a lot of patrons from outside of this region, might not return in the same levels from last year.”

Gaming tax collections are tracked on the state’s fiscal year, which runs from July 1 to June 30. Casino tax collections totaled $26.5 million in December and $155.3 million since July 1.

On the Net:

Mississippi State Tax Commission,

http://www.mstc.state.ms.us/taxareas/misc/gaming/stats/GamingGrossRe venues.pdf