Casinos bounce back after hurricane stall - Friday 21st of November 2008

Mississippi’s casino revenues rebounded by $9 million in October from a hurricane-plagued September but are down nearly 3 percent from a year earlier. The Mississippi River casinos — which include the five casinos in Vicksburg — took in $114.2 million, up about $7 million from September.

For October in Vicksburg specifically, tax filings reflect a 15 percent drop from the same month a year ago. The differential, however, may be due to variations in recording and reporting times. Casinos pay the revenue-based taxes to the state weekly and the state sends checks to local governments monthly. Historically, activity here has tracked statewide trends, including a 3 percent drop for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

The figures do not yet include Riverwalk — the city’s fifth casino— which opened its doors Oct. 28.

Mississippi casinos took in $211.1 million in October, up more than 4 percent from September, according to figures from the State Tax Commission. The coastal market took in $98.8 million, up $12 million from September. The state’s total is 2.7 percent less than in October a year ago, when revenues totaled $217.1 million, and down 4 percent for the first 10 months of this year at $2.3 billion, compared to $2.4 billion from January through October 2007.

Win, or casino revenue, is the net amount of money won from gamblers. It is not profit.

The gross earnings figure represents revenue with no operating costs or other expenses deducted. And it’s casino revenue only — separate from hotel, restaurant or bar revenues generated by the resorts.

“Those are good, stable, consistent numbers given the state of the economy,” said Gaming Commission chairman Jerry St. Pe. “I think the statistics continue to reflect that we’re doing better here in Mississippi, not just in gaming, but in other businesses.”

The casino industry saw an 18.8 percent drop in revenue in September from August. The downturn came during a double whammy of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

Gaming Commission officials had expected some slowdown in response to the sluggish economy.

When compared to October 2007, revenue for the coastal casinos held steady while casinos along the Mississippi River took in about $13 million less than a year ago.

Locally, the city, county and school district each receive a share of the 3.2 percent tax on casino revenue. A second revenue tax is an 0.8 percent share of the state’s 8 percent revenue tax on casinos, which they pay in lieu of state corporate taxes. They also pay property taxes based on the value of their investments, and the city’s tourism and bed taxes also apply to casino properties.

Gaming tax collections are tracked on the state’s fiscal year, which runs from July 1 to June 30. Casino tax collections in October totaled $22.7 million and $106.4 million since July 1. Tax collections in the fiscal year that ended June 30 totaled $344.5 million.

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