USM Study Says Leave Casino Taxes Alone

Three years ago, a study about Mississippi casinos predicted eight would close, if their taxes went up. Dr. Denise von Herrmann did that study.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast Economic Development Council commissioned her to do another study now.

"The first major difference between 2001 and now is that the industry is in a better financial position, but only slightly," she said.

That's why Dr. von Herrmann's newest research project concluded Mississippi would still be taking quite a gamble if it tinkered with its 2004 casino tax rate. "I think it might be indeed devastating to the economy of the state of Mississippi," she said during a Southern Gaming Summit news conference.

Dr. von Herrmann based that on research she did in November and December. Her analysis of casino records determined that six casinos would close -- three in South Mississippi -- if the legislature raised their taxes three percent.

"I can tell you however that the losses and the offsetting effects of losing some casino properties and some casino jobs are very real, and they would be very negative," she said, "particularly in a time when the state is just beginning to come out of a difficult economic recession."

If the USM professor's newest research became a reality, 4,600 casino workers around Mississippi could get pink slips. Listen to what the workers she surveyed expected to do in that situation.

"Many of those people wouldn't plan to stay in the state," she said. "Rather they would move to other states and seek work in the casino industry in another state, if they lost their jobs here."

However, if taxes remain at 12%, Dr. von Herrmann believes Mississippi casinos can keep all of their slot machines quite busy.