Casinos in Mississippi were once booming businesses. But there has been a dramatic drop off in the revenue those casinos attract over the past few years. While the casino industry still brings in billions of dollars annually, it’s down significantly from what the casinos brought into the economy of Mississippi in years past. The first casinos in Mississippi opened 23 years ago. In 2007 casinos in the state raked in almost $3 billion. But since that time casino revenues have been steadily declining. In 2014 casinos in Mississippi only brought in about $2 billion.
While $2 billion may seem like a lot of money, state officials are concerned because the amount is 35% less that the casino industry earned at its peak. That the income from casino gaming is now bringing in almost a billion dollars less than it did 7 years ago has people worried about what the future may hold for the industry and how it will impact the state’s economy. Research is being done state-wide to identify the causes for the drop in casino revenue and blue ribbon panels have been trying to figure out what can be done to reverse the trend and keep casinos as a viable source of income for the state.
In Mississippi the casino industry is about a lot more than just gaming. It is also an important part of the state’s entertainment and tourism as well. People that are drawn to the state because of the casinos also support many other local industries as well. Hotels, restaurants, retail sales, service industries, and many other segments of Mississippi’s economy will also suffer deep losses if the reduction in the number of people that visit the casinos in the state continue to grow. While state gaming officials acknowledge high gas prices and the nationwide recession have played a role in the reduction of the amount of revenue the casinos generate, they are still concerned.
The state officials’ biggest concern is that the downward trend will continue. The fact that there are now a number of other states in their region that allow and promote gaming is one of the outside factors Mississippi officials concede has had an impact on the amount of revenue Mississippi casinos now generate. This is forcing casinos to add new and more exciting offerings to bring people back to the casinos. Mississippi casinos are now working to rebrand themselves as family friendly recreation venues and not just places to try to win money playing, black jack, poker, and slot machines.
This new role for the casinos is a change not many people anticipated. For the first 15 years the feeling in the Mississippi casino industry had been if new and better casinos continued to be built, the number of people flooding into the state to try their luck would continue to grow. Unfortunately that has not been the case and both the state and the casinos must come up with creative ways to reverse the decline. The state’s Convention and Visitors Bureau is increasingly incorporating the casinos in their marketing of the state to tourists as fun and entertaining places to visit.
But more needs to be done. Some major casinos have been forced to shut their doors because revenue has dropped so significantly. Others are planning to do the same. While state gaming officials are not in panic mode, there is serious cause for concern. The question has become, what can the state and the casino industry do to reverse the trend and bring people back to the casinos? This question has some of the brightest minds in the state thinking long and hard. Mississippi cannot stop the other states in their region from building casinos, so they must come up with new and innovative marketing strategies.
Fortunately all the news coming out of the casino industry in recent times has not been bad. While river casinos are not doing as well as they have in the past, coastal casinos seem to be holding their own. There has even been growth of a little over 2.5 percent in casino revenue this year compared to the same time a year ago. This may seem small, but any reversal of the decline is welcome and meaningful. Plus while some casinos have decided to close their doors, new ones have stated their intentions to open.
This is heartening news for Mississippi because while only a small percentage of Mississippians are directly involved in casinos, the revenue casinos bring impacts all Mississippians.