Mississippi rebounded solidly from the worst of the pandemic in 2021, with the state seeing its highest revenue from casino gaming since 2008, according to figures released last week. The Magnolia State, which is home to 26 casinos, pulled in close to $2.67 billion in gaming revenue across the year, which represented a handsome recovery in a year which was still significantly complicated by Covid-19.
The report was particularly good news for the state treasury, which collects tax on the total win in each casino – ie. the casino’s revenue minus winnings paid out. The state purse was swelled by 2021’s takings to the tune of $311.5 million, a surprising and useful collection in a year which was not expected to provide such a substantial boost to the coffers.
Mississippi’s casinos are responsible for upwards of 13,000 jobs in the state, which makes the gaming sector a substantial contributor to the state economy. Most of the income in 2021 took place in casinos along the state’s Gulf Coast, indicating that a substantial number of gamers chose to combine their casino trips with short breaks to the coastal resorts.
The casino take is doubly important for the local economy given that Mississippi struggled to maintain its usual levels of international travel. In 2019, close to 200,000 overseas travelers spent time in the state. The number of international visitors remained negligible in the second year of the pandemic, an issue that has been replicated in most states, and the $200 million average revenue they bring with them annually would have represented a much bigger hole in the state’s figures had it not been for casino takings and an increase in so-called “staycations”, with state residents choosing to holiday close to home.
One word of warning that has emerged, though, is that 2022 takings so far are lagging behind the 2022 resurgence. Through the first six months of this year, casinos have taken $1.318 billion in total win – that number stood at $1.369 billion in 2021. In percentage terms, it’s a small drop-off of around 3%, but $51 million is a non-negligible amount of money across 26 casinos.
Blame for the drop-off so far has been laid principally at the door of the record inflation currently buffeting the entire country. Inflation rose to 9.1% year-on-year in a report released last week, a level that has not been seen in forty years, and a parallel collapse in consumer confidence has affected every industry. Experts have argued, however, that this could yet have positive outcomes for the state’s economy, including the casino sector, as Mississippians choose to spend their money locally rather than venturing out of the state.
It is also worth bearing in mind that the drop-off in revenues is compared to a standout performance in 2021. With numbers last year being much higher than expected, the 2022 take is still likely to be of a level that few would have foreseen in the darkest days of the pandemic.