Flood swamps winnings at riverboat casinos

WEST MISSISSIPPI — Flooding along the Mississippi River took a chunk out of Mississippi’s state-licensed casino winnings in May as well as state and local government tax coffers.

High water caused lengthy closures for most of the 19 riverfront casinos. As a result, those casinos won only $41 million last month, compared with $107.8 million in May 2010 and $101.8 million in April 2011, the Mississippi Department of Revenue said today.

The 11 Gulf Coast casinos, which weren’t affected by flooding, won $96.2 million last month for a statewide May total of $137.2 million — down 32.4 percent from $203.1 million in May 2010. The coastal casinos won $95.3 million in May 2010 and $87.4 million in April 2011.

The statewide tally for April 2011 was $189.3 million.

The shutdowns, which averaged three to four weeks for each riverfront casino, resulted in the loss of $7.9 million in casino taxes, when compared with May 2010, said Allen Godfrey, deputy director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission. Of those lost taxes, about $2.6 million was taken from local governments, he said.

In addition, an undetermined amount of sales taxes were lost after casino hotels and restaurants were shuttered during high water, Godfrey said.

“That was a pretty serious hit,” Godfrey said.

Although about 12,500 people work in the river casinos, most of those employees were paid through the shutdowns, he said.

“Most people don’t know that. The casino industry really stepped up to the plate, but they took it on the chin,” Godfrey said.

The shutdowns hit as the casino industry continues trying to rebound from the Great Recession. Money for discretionary spending and travel have been tight for individuals, while businesses have been carefully watching dollars spent on conventions, a lucrative target of casinos.

Analysts also have said that recent high gasoline prices have been a drag on the business.

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

Source: AP

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