Casino Revenue Falls

Mississippi casinos felt the effects of the sluggish economy and the terrorist attacks last month as gross revenue fell 2½ percent. Mississippi's 30 state-regulated casinos took in $218.4 million in October, compared with $212.9 million in the year-ago period, according to figures from the Mississippi State Tax Commission. The dozen casinos on the coast reported $90.6 million in gross revenue for the month, 3 percent less than last October.

The remaining casinos along the Mississippi River had $122.2 million in revenue, down some 2½ percent from October 2000. Play at Mississippi's casinos was off significantly the week after the Sept. 11 attacks, but customers began returning in healthy numbers soon after. One big factor helping gambling houses in Mississippi is that most patrons live within a few hundred miles and travel by auto. ``I think a combination of the general economy and people afraid to travel have affected us some, but we haven't been hurt nearly as badly as Las Vegas,'' said Brian Richard, senior research analyst with the Mississippi Gaming Association. ``This is sort of a downtime in general for the industry,'' Richard said. The attacks, the fighting in Afghanistan and the anthrax scares have taken a heavy toll on the gambling industry nationwide.

At home, the lavish Beau Rivage casino resort in Biloxi said last month it was laying off 340 people, or 11 percent of its work force, because of a downturn since Sept. 11 in its hotel, retail, restaurant and convention businesses. Leery of flying, many people have canceled trips to Las Vegas, triggering 15,000 layoffs and losses for Park Place Entertainment Corp., MGM Mirage Inc. and other casino companies. Other gambling resorts are hurting too: Baton Rouge, La., riverboats reported a 13.4 percent decline in the amount won from gamblers in September. The Treasure Chest riverboat casino in Kenner, La., laid off 80 employees last month as attendance fell after the attacks. For September, Atlantic City casino revenue was off 6.3 percent.