Mississippi casino revenues decline in November

AP News
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Posted: Dec 21, 2009 2:56 PM

A rebound in Mississippi gaming revenues lasted only a month.

Mississippi's state-licensed casinos reported November revenues of $185.4 million, the lowest revenue figure since September 2005 when a dozen coastal casinos were shut down after Hurricane Katrina.

The November figures, released Monday by the Mississippi State Tax Commission, represented an $8.1 million drop from October and $1 million down from September, the previous low at $186.4 million.

Since January, the casinos have taken in $2.27 billion, compared to $2.51 billion from January to November 2008.

In November, casinos along the Mississippi Gulf Coast showed a slight improvement from October, winning $87.2 million, up from $86.3 million. Casinos along the Mississippi River _ including Tunica, Vicksburg and Natchez _ won $99.2 million last month, down from $107.2 million in October.

In November 2008, revenue totaled $205.3 million _ $96.2 million from the coastal casinos and $109 million from those along the river.

Comparing last month's revenue to November 2008, the drop was under 10 percent, regulators said.

"The trend continues that the number of people visiting casinos hasn't dropped; the money they're spending has,' said Allen Godfrey, deputy director of the state Gaming Commission. "They don't have the gambling budget they had two years ago.

"They're staying two nights instead of three or four. They're playing penny and nickel slot machines rather that the dollar and higher denomination machines. It's where we are in the economy."

Years back, Godfrey said regulators could look and tell which months were going to be better months and which others were going to historically be down.

"It's a new ball game now," he said.

Similar drops have been reported throughout the past year in other casino states such as Louisiana, Nevada, New Jersey and Illinois.

In Louisiana, the 13 riverboat casinos, Harrah's Entertainment Inc.'s downtown New Orleans casino and the four race track casinos took in $179 million in November, down from $214.9 million in November 2008.

John Payne, Harrah's central division president, said during a meeting last month of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board that 2010 likely would "follow the trends of 2009" before a recovery in 2011 and 2012.

Nonetheless, Godfrey said investors continue to show interest in Mississippi.

"We have people wanting to come to Mississippi with new properties," he said.

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.

The figures do not include Indian reservation casinos, which are not required to report their winnings to the public.

Gaming tax collections are tracked on Mississippi's fiscal year, which runs from July 1 to June 30. Casino tax collections in November totaled $23.9 million compared to $21.1 million in October.

Mississippi collected $118.9 million in the first five months of this fiscal year.