June Gambling Revenue Flat in Mississippi

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JACKSON, Miss. (Associated Press) - Mississippi's casino revenues were basically flat in June, as a recovery at gambling halls along the Mississippi River barely made up for losses on the Gulf Coast.

Overall revenue rose less than 1 percent from June 2011, to $186.9 million, according to Mississippi Department of Revenue figures released Tuesday. Statewide revenue was basically flat with May, down less than $150,000.

In June, the 12 coastal casinos won a total of $89.9 million from gamblers, down 4.3 percent from the $94 million that they won in June 2011.

The 17 river casinos from Tunica to Natchez won $97 million, up 5 percent from $92 million in June of last year. That month, riverfront casinos were still recovering from the flood that led to widespread shutdowns in May 2011.

The numbers exclude Choctaw Indian casinos, which aren't required to report their winnings to the state.

The coast's lower total comes despite June being the first full month at the Margaritaville Casino & Restaurant in Biloxi. The Mississippi Gaming Commission, when it licensed the Jimmy Buffett-themed casino, had voiced confidence that it would help expand the overall gambling market in Mississippi.

Margaritaville said Tuesday it would open a branch at the Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, N.J., in 2013. That would be its fourth casino. It's building a third in Bossier City, La., in addition to locations in Biloxi and Las Vegas.

Mississippi's gambling halls have struggled to regain momentum after the recession, with revenue sliding for four straight years after hitting a high of $2.89 billion in 2007. Revenues are 1.44 percent higher over the first six months of 2012, but less than 1 percent down on a rolling 12-month basis.

Some investors are still interested in casino expansions in Mississippi. Tuesday, the Biloxi City Council agreed to exempt a new 154-room hotel tower at the Hard Rock Casino Biloxi from some property taxes for 12 years. The exemption is meant to encourage Leucadia National Corp., which owns the Hard Rock, to build the $32.5 million structure. At least three other ownership groups on the coast are trying to win Gaming Commission approvals and raise money to build gambling halls.

Along the river, a second casino is under construction in Natchez.

Next door to Mississippi, Louisiana's state-licensed casinos took in nearly $203 million from gamblers in June. That's a 3 percent growth in winnings from June 2011 but a slight dip from May 2012.

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