Mississippi casinos could be headed to a 15-year low in gross gaming revenues,
if the trend from the first four months continues the rest of the year.
April figures released by the Mississippi Gaming Commission this week show another month of revenue decreases as casinos attempt to reverse the trend of out-of-state gamblers staying out of state.
The $740 million in gross gaming revenue by the state's 30 casinos is the lowest four-month total since 1998, when casinos pulled in $726.8 million with only a couple dozen casinos operating. The number reflects a 13 percent fall in revenue over the first four months of 2012, which came in at $798.6 million.
Allen Godfrey, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, didn't expect the drop in revenue on the coast.
"The numbers did surprise me," he said. Then he paused. "I just can't explain it."
"Some might point to the fact that the month started on a Monday and we missed part of a weekend, but we've got to get people to come here. I can't express that enough."
After showing signs of life in March, gross gaming revenues for casinos along the Gulf Coast took a drop in April, falling to their lowest level since 1998 - with the exception of the post-Katrina recovery year.
Revenues for the 12 coast casinos were $85.6 million, down from $93.4 million in 2012. In 2006, revenues dropped to 59.6 million as the coast fought to recover from Katrina, but the next-lowest April numbers were $67.9 million in 1998.
March revenues on the coast had increased over 2012 by about $1 million. The 2012 and 2013 totals were the first time coast casinos had hit the $100 million mark in March since 2007.
In April, The 18 river casinos posted $90.6 million in revenues, down from $93.7 million in 2012, but still the worst April since $89.8 million in 1996.
Overall, the state's 30 casinos had their worst April in 15 years. The state took in $176.3 million in April, down $10.8 million from $187.1 million April 2012. That's the lowest April since 1998 when revenues were at $172.6 million. Deepening the trend, January's gross gaming revenue was the lowest since 1997, and February posted the lowest statewide total since 1998.
"People are more cautious with their money now and they tend to stay closer to home," said Godfrey.
He added that out-of-state visitors decreased dramatically from 2008 to 2012, falling from 36.5 million to just under 25 million.
"They just stopped coming," he said. "And we have to come up with the amenities to bring them back."
Casino revenues in the state have been dropping since 2007, because of the recession and increased competition. Casino analysts point to the need for more amenities in the Tunica area and along the coast to reverse the downward spiral.
In an effort to stop the trend, some Tunica casinos have instituted a $1 million giveaway every Saturday night and are planning a new advertising campaign to counter negative-stereotype ads from a greyhound park and casino in Arkansas. The search is also on for new amenities on the coast. The latest effort came last week when the Biloxi City Council added its support to an effort to build a stadium and bring a Double-A baseball team to the city.
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