Mississippi’s gaming revenue has surged from $122 million to a staggering $3.3 billion over the past three decades. The number marks an outstanding 30-fold increase since the state’s first casino – the Isle of Capri Casino in Harrison County – opened its doors in 1992.
Mississippi’s gaming and hospitality association director Larry Gregory announced the total gaming revenue during a Vicksburg-Warren Chamber of Commerce meeting. The Vicksburg Post reported that Gregory described the achievement as “huge”.
He mentioned a rise in gross gaming revenue to $2.5 billion and an additional $800 million in non-gaming revenue. Gregory also highlighted the significance of the non-gaming sector, stressing the importance of hotels, food, and other amenities the industry provides across the Magnolia State.
In 2021, only three states surpassed $3 billion in gaming revenue: New Jersey ($4.7B), Pennsylvania ($4.8B), and Nevada ($13.4B). Mississippi fell slightly short, earning just under $2.7 billion, placing it behind New York and Indiana.
In 1992, the Isle of Capri marked the beginning of modern gaming in Mississippi by launching its first casino on the historic former Diamond Lady Riverboat. To ensure its success, Mississippi modeled its gaming industry after Nevada.
This move includes implementing a favorable tax rate of 8 percent for the state’s general fund and 4 percent for local entities. The association with Nevada, however, may have raised concerns among the public.
“Back when legalized gambling was being introduced, it was very difficult for people to accept gambling,” Gregory said. “They just thought it was going to bring organized crime at the time.”
Over the years, the gaming industry in Mississippi has demonstrated its commitment as a responsible corporate citizen. Gregory expressed pride in the industry’s positive contributions to the local communities, saying, “We’ve done well in our communities, we’re proud.”
The biggest setback for Mississippi’s gaming industry occurred after Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast in 2005. Gregory was initially doubtful about the industry’s recovery during a chamber of commerce meeting. “We just didn’t think we could come back,” he said.
In the aftermath of the disaster, then-Governor Haley Barbour dispatched officials to discuss the return of casinos to the Coast. However, casino executives clarified that they were committed to returning only under changed circumstances. They insisted that the law be modified to allow for land-based casinos rather than floating casinos or casino boats.
Consequently, the state changed its gaming laws to permit land-based casinos. Gregory believes this decision was crucial in making “everything came back bigger and better for what it was”.
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