South Mississippi casino industry marks 25th year with a win

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Rogelio V. Solis / AP

In this Aug. 29, 2006, photo, gamblers play slot machines at the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi, Miss.

Tue, Jan 23, 2018 (1:51 p.m.)

Revenue at the Coast casinos was lagging behind 2016 levels on Aug. 1, the 25th anniversary of the first casino opening in South Mississippi, yet the industry pulled out a winning hand by year's end.

Even with Hurricane Nate closing the casinos in October on one of the busiest weekends of the year, revenue squeaked by and topped last year's total by $3.8 million, for a .4 percent increase.

Mississippi Department of Revenue released the final numbers for 2017 on Friday that showed revenue at the 12 Coast casinos totaled $1.192 billion, compared to $1.188 billion in 2016.

It's the fifth straight year that revenues increased on the Coast.

Michael Bruffey, deputy director of the Mississippi Gaming and Hospitality Association, just completed the annual report looking back at 2017. It will be posted on the organization's website on Jan. 24.

"The statewide gaming revenue numbers are down 2 percent for the year with the North River market down 6 percent, the Central River market down 3 percent, but with the Gulf Coast market up almost 1 percent, having its best year in gaming revenue since 2008," he said.

Revenue fell to $885.2 million from $932.5 million in 2016 at the combined river casinos, a drop of $47 million.

Total revenue for the state dropped to $2.08 billion from $2.12 billion in 2016.

"The report examines the impact the gaming industry has had in Mississippi during 2017 from tax revenues, to jobs and wages paid, to charitable giving," he said, "and we look back at 25 years of gaming in Mississippi. We also examine visitation trends and give a glimpse of what we think lies ahead in 2018."

This year will bring a new casino, something that traditionally boosts casino revenue in South Mississippi, when Island View Casino in Gulfport opens it smoke-free Beach Casino at Island View on the south side of U.S. 90.

New Orleans native Bill Boasberg had great success opening MGM National Harbor in Maryland and he starts the year as the new president at Beau Rivage Resort & Casino.

Hard Rock Casino will debut its new Robo Bar to the public at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, and other casinos are beginning renovations.

There's also the possibility that the ban on sports betting will be overturned this year by the U.S. Supreme Court, and Allen Godfrey, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, said there's a lot of excitement around the country for that possibility.

In the 25 years since Isle of Capri opened in Biloxi in 1992, the Coast casino industry has contributed $6 billion in taxes, with $2 billion of that going to local governments and schools, according to the Mississippi Department of Revenue.

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