February’s state tax revenue from the casino industry
1993 – $3.4 million
1994 – $8.1 million
1995 – $9 million
1996 – $7.9 million
State Gaming Commission officials said the industry has leveled off in recent months. But economists are predicting major new casinos will fuel additional growth in the gambling industry.
By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – The number of people employed in the gambling industry in Mississippi continues to grow while the number of people working in manufacturing continues to decline.
Despite that decline in manufacturing jobs, Gov. Kirk Fordice is fond of referring to the “Mississippi miracle” when talking about the state’s economy.
About 30 percent of that miracle can be attributed directly to the casino industry, according to Dr. Phil Pepper, the state’s chief economist.
At the recently completed Southern Gaming Summit in Biloxi, Fordice agreed with that assessment. At the summit, he praised the gambling industry, saying it accounted for 25 to 30 percent of the state’s economic growth. It is certain that not much of that growth was attributable to manufacturing, based on the numbers.
Between July 1994 and July 1995, the state lost more manufacturing jobs than any other state in the country except for Hawaii and Rhode Island. That trend appears to be continuing.
The state has lost about 16,500 manufacturing jobs during the past year and had about 246,700 as of February. During the same time period, jobs in the amusement sector, which includes casinos, have increased 2,700 to 33,000 statewide.
Gambling revenue is expected to bring $112 million to the state general fund for the upcoming budget year, which begins July 1.
Pepper acknowledged that other people would argue that gambling is responsible for closer to 50 percent of the state’s growth. But all agree, including the governor, that the gambling industry has played a significant role in the growth of the Mississippi economy.
“It (gambling) has made a substantial contribution to our growth – to our doing so well,” said House Speaker Tim Ford, D-Tupelo.
Gambling industry explodes
The Legislature approved gambling along the Mississippi River counties and the Gulf Coast in 1990. Gross revenue has risen from $789 million in 1993 to $1.7 billion in 1995.
While manufacturing employment has continued to decline in recent years, the state’s gambling industry has exploded. There are currently 29 casinos along the Gulf Coast and Mississippi River.
Warren Strain, a spokesman for the state Gaming Commission, which regulates the industry, said Mississippi is about to enter a new era in the casino industry.
New projects that will include recreational activities other than just gambling are being built on the Coast and in Tunica. The Imperial Palace is investing $200 million in a casino with a 1,100-bed hotel in Biloxi. The Grand Tunica investment will be about $600 million south of Memphis.
Strain said the number of casinos will climb to 31 by the end of the year. To top that off, other existing facilities are planning major expansions.
“Basically the casino industry has leveled off,” Strain said. “But we are right at the end of that. We are about to see huge growth again.”
He said families who want to do more than just gamble will be visiting the casino resorts.
And what about manufacturing? Pepper said much of the decrease in manufacturing has come in the textile and apparel industries, which are traditionally low-paying jobs. He said many of those jobs have gone out of the country, and he doubts they will return to Mississippi.
“The rural areas are hurting more than the urban areas,” he said. To attract higher-paying jobs to those areas, the skill level of the potential employees must be increased, he said.
With the loss of the manufacturing jobs, has the casino industry become the mainstay of the state’s economy? Pepper’s answer is no.
He said if the gambling industry had not come to the state other manufacturers seeing an available pool of employees might have located in the state.
The entire service industry now has almost an many jobs as does manufacturing. There are about 237,000 service jobs.