The gradual makeover of Mississippi’s gaming landscape continued in March as the Gulf Coast casinos continued to out-perform the Mississippi River casinos — including an increase over last year’s gross gaming revenue for the second month in a row.
In the first quarter of 2014, Gulf Coast casino gross gaming revenue is up 0.6 percent over the first quarter of 2013, while the river casinos are down 5 percent.
According to figures released by the Mississippi Gaming Commission, gross gaming revenue — the money casinos earn after subtracting payouts from wagers — was $104.8 million at the 12 Gulf Coast casinos in March, up from $102 million last year. It’s the fourth straight March those numbers have increased along the coast.
At the 18 Mississippi River casinos — which includes the hard-hit Tunica Resorts market — March revenue is down for the second straight year, dropping from $112.1 million in 2012 to $103.3 million this year. Statewide, this year’s $208.2 million is down from last year’s $214.1 million.
March, traditionally, is one of the more profitable months for casinos because that’s when many Mississippians receive their income tax refunds.
The gaming commission does not release information on individual casinos, but does release separate figures for the Gulf Coast and the Mississippi River casinos. Since casinos opened almost 22 years ago, Tunica Resorts and the other river casinos have dominated the revenue statistics, but that trend started to change in mid-2013.
In the first six months of 2013, Mississippi River casinos outperformed the coast in five of those months, but the coast has been the top performer in eight of the last nine months.
Owners on the coast have continued to bounce back from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 by building hotels and improving amenities. The Tunica area however has seen increased competition nationwide cut into its visitors, forcing Harrah’s Tunica to announce it will close this summer.