Coast casinos up, riverboats down in April

ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — Revenue for Mississippi Coast casinos was up in April, but the take at river casinos dropped, depressing the overall revenue at the state’s gambling halls.

The state’s casinos won 1.2 percent less money, with revenues falling to $187 million last month from $189.3 million in April 2011.

Casinos in the Gulf Coast market’s revenue rose 6.8 percent, to $93.4 million from $87.4 million. It’s the third month in a row of strong revenue increases for that region’s 11 casinos.

The take at the 17 casinos along the Mississippi River fell 8 percent, to $93.7 million from $101.9 million.

Vicksburg’s Grand Station casino closed on March 28, temporarily reducing the overall number in Mississippi to 28 and it likely accounted for some of the revenue decline. Biloxi’s Margaritaville casino opened earlier this week, pushing the total back to 29, but its contribution won’t be reflected until May figures are released.

The numbers don’t include Choctaw Indian casinos, which are not required to report their winnings to the state.

Mississippi’s gambling halls have struggled to regain momentum after the recession, with revenue sliding for four straight years after hitting a high of $2.89 billion in 2007. April’s overall decline pushes the state’s casinos back after they had shown modest growth in the first three months of the year.

Despite the bad month, optimism is rising among those who watch the casino industry. Webster Franklin, president and CEO of the Tunica Convention & Visitors Bureau, said traffic appears to be rising at Tunica County’s nine casinos.

“The general feeling is we’re seeing more visitors,” Franklin said. “Now if only the casinos could get lucky at the tables.”

Optimism is even higher on the Gulf Coast, where Scott King of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Business Council believes that the Margaritaville casino will help unlock pent-up demand among gamblers who sharply cut back spending during the recession.

Mississippi’s performance was better than in Louisiana, where casino revenues fell by more than 5 percent overall in April when compared to the same month in 2011.

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