By The Associated Press
BILOXI, Miss. (AP) — Recovery from the recession began at the Mississippi Gulf Coast casinos in the spring of 2010 and likely will continue over several years, according to the newly-released State of the State annual report on Mississippi casinos.
Presented by the Mississippi Casino Operators Association and compiled by economist Scott King, the report shows casino revenue fell by $500 million during the recession that was felt locally starting in September 2008.
After seven consecutive quarterly declines, the coast casinos reported year-over-year increases in the last three quarters of 2010.
“The last five years have been very challenging for our industry,” said Tess Ingram, chairman of the association.
Despite Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf oil spill, the recession and flooding on the Mississippi River, she said casino operators in the state continue to provide innovative casino products while improving non-casino amenities.
“We believe that we are well positioned to continue our progress towards making Mississippi a premier tourism destination in the United States,” she said.
Casinos now are a $2.39 billion industry in Mississippi, the fifth highest in the nation after Nevada, New Jersey, Indiana and Pennsylvania.
While revenue has dropped 17 percent since the highs in 2007, payrolls at the state’s casinos since the recession are down by 13 percent.
The report says the challenges ahead are continued high gasoline prices and increased competition.
When Isle of Capri opened Mississippi’s first casino in Biloxi in 1992, only six other states offered legalized gambling. Today 22 states permit casinos or racetrack casino gambling and Florida is considering allowing five additional casino resorts, one of which could be built in the Panhandle.
About 70 percent of the visitors to Mississippi casinos in 2010 were from out of state, the report said.
It added that 19 percent were from Louisiana, 18 percent from Tennessee, 14 percent from Alabama and 12 percent from Florida.
The number of visitors since 2007 has dropped from 40 million to 32 million.
The report says an increase in gaming taxes and some form of a statewide smoking ban are likely during the 2012 legislative session.
Other highlights of the report:
— Mississippi has 33,068 slot machines in its commercial casinos, the second most after Nevada, and another 4,600 at the Choctaw casinos
— Tax collections from Mississippi casinos per capita amounted to $98 in 2010
— Biloxi and Tunica are among the top 10 local casino markets. The other eight have substantially higher populations.