The future of gaming in Mississippi was one of the most urgent topics at this week’s Southern Gaming Summit in Biloxi. As MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports, gaming revenues are down 26 percent since 2007.
Annual gaming revenues in the Magnolia state fell from 2.9 billion to $2.1 billion dollars in the past seven years. Allen Godfrey is director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission. He says much of that decline was in the north Mississippi river casinos, in Tunica and Coahoma County. The central region has been stable, he says, and he sees potential for growth on the Gulf Coast, depending on the competition down the road.
Possible new competition includes a recent move by Alabama’s Poarch Creek Band of Indians to bring a casino to Escambia County, Florida. As Mississippi casinos look for ways to attract more players in an increasingly competitive market, internet gambling is one possibility. It’s currently legal in just three states. Godfrey is leading a task force to see how it’s working there.
Sports betting is legal only in Nevada. In fact, there’d have to be a change in federal law to allow it here, but House Gaming Committee Chair Richard Bennett says he added it to the task force agenda because of requests from fellow legislators and because it’s an opportunity for Mississippi since NCAA rules don’t allow sports betting in states that host events, such as Louisiana and Alabama.