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Mississippi stops slide in casino revenues – sort of

Casino_rouletter_wheel RGBMississippi casinos have halted their four-year slide in annual gross gaming revenues — or have they?

In records released recently by the Mississippi Department of Revenue, gaming revenue in 2012 showed an increase of $12 million over 2011. That stopped a streak of four consecutive years where gaming revenues dropped by an average of about $160 million per year.

“Yes, technically, that’s true,” said Allen Godfrey, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission. “But we have to be realistic. We did have the floods in 2011.”

It was in May 2011 when the rising Mississippi River affected almost every casino on its banks. Some casinos were flooded, and others were forced to close for as many as three weeks.

“If you compare numbers for May 2011 and May 2012, the floods probably cost those casinos more than $60 million in revenue,” said Godfrey. “And that was up and down the river, not just in Tunica.”

Adjusting the ledger for that loss means, realistically, that 2012 would have been a fifth consecutive year of revenue declines since casinos hit an all-time high of $2.892 billion in 2007. Revenues have been in a steady decline each year since — $2.721 billion in 2008, $2.465 billion in 2009, $2.389 billion in 2010 and $2.239 billion in 2011. Casinos took in $2.251 billion dollars in 2012.

But even with the adjustment for the floods, last year’s revenue decline would have been about $48 million, the smallest drop of the five-year span, and an indication the downward movement may be leveling.

“I think the trend is slowing,” said Godfrey. “And I think it is a positive that we still have lot of interest from developers coming to Mississippi.”

There are projects or interest in projects in various stages of development along the Gulf Coast, including the Back Bay. Also, Magnolia Bluffs casino opened in December in Natchez.

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