Casinos in Mississippi are on track to take in more money this year than in pre-pandemic 2019, according to a published report.
From January to May this year, gross gaming revenue in Mississippi totaled $1.1 billion, according to the Mississippi Today website. In 2019, the state’s casinos won $2.2 billion for the entire year.
In 2020, with casinos locked down for about two months under COVID-19 restrictions, the gross revenue for the year totaled $1.8 billion.
This year’s numbers put the state’s gaming halls on pace to set a revenue record dating back to the 1990s, when casinos were legalized in the state, the website reported.
Mississippi is home to 26 commercial casinos. Twelve are along the Gulf Coast, with eight of those in the Biloxi area.
Keith Crosby, general manager of the Palace Casino in Biloxi, told Mississippi Today one reason for the big numbers this year is that a lot of businesses have closed. That creates “less competition for people’s discretionary dollars.”
“On the flip side of that effect, the casino industry got ahead of it with some significant safety measures in place to deal with COVID,” he said.
‘Back to Normal Life’
Another reason for the higher gaming win total this year is that more tourists are showing up. Across the country, the national rollout of vaccines and stimulus checks has unleashed a pent-up demand for travel.
Karen Conner, director of marketing for the tourism agency Coastal Mississippi, said the number of tourists is higher than it has been in years.
This significant increase in visitation serves as an important benchmark for the progress of our recovery as a destination,” she told Mississippi Today.
With athletic events back on a regular schedule, sports betting also is reviving interest in casinos, said state Rep. Casey Eure (R). The Biloxi legislator chairs the House Gaming Committee.
“People have been happy to get back to normal life,” he said.
Sports betting is expected to generate even more interest with the NFL season kicking off soon. NFL games generally are the most widely bet sporting events in the country. This year, the regular season begins in September and ends with the Super Bowl on Feb. 13, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif.
In Mississippi, sports betting is restricted to on-site wagering inside casinos. Bettors cannot legally use smartphones or computers in putting money down on a live sporting event.
However, mobile sports betting is legal in Tennessee and Louisiana, two states that border Mississippi. Mobile sports betting has been operational in Tennessee since November. It is legal, but not yet up and running in Louisiana.
The increase in tourism and casino gambling has left some Mississippi resorts short-staffed.
As of last week, the Beau Rivage had nearly 100 open positions available, according to Mississippi Today. In May, the Beau Rivage conducted a job fair that resulted in 120 slots being filled. About 300 people showed up for interviews.
In an effort to attract workers, some Mississippi casinos have raised wages.
A similar casino job shortage is occurring in Arkansas, where one casino recently hired job candidates on the spot, and another raised wages and paid for new table-game employees to attend dealer school.