New casino boosts gaming revenuePublished 12:08am Sunday, April 7, 2013
NATCHEZ — Three months after Natchez’s second casino began play, gaming revenue is up in the city, but insiders warn it’s too early to bet on the increase holding or folding.
Natchez gaming revenues for December, January and February increased over the same months last year, figures from the Natchez City Clerk’s office show, with the biggest increase coming in January.
Total gaming revenue was approximately $3.7 million in January, an approximately $1.3-million increase over January 2012’s approximately $2.4 million take.
The increase is good news for the City of Natchez, which earns gaming tax on the money.
Natchez Mayor Butch Brown said he is pleased with the increased gaming revenues, but said more time is needed to feel confident the increase is permanent.
“I think only time will tell,” he said. “I think everyone is pleasantly surprised right now and feeling good. We hope revenues do continue to grow.”
After nearly 20 years of being a one-casino city with the Isle of Capri Casino having a lock on the market, Magnolia Bluffs Casino opened on Dec. 18.
The new casino, even though only in operation for a portion of December, appears to have impacted revenue.
Revenue for December was approximately $2.5 million, up around $400,000 from the approximately $2.1 million in gaming revenues booked in December 2011.
Revenue for February was approximately $3.22 million, an approximately $360,000 increase from $2.87 million in February 2012.
The revenue may be a disproportionate split between the two casinos, though. Neither the City of Natchez nor the Mississippi Department of Revenue splits out the individual revenue per casino.
Magnolia Bluffs Casino President Kevin Preston said he is pleased with the casino’s progress in its first few months.
“We continue to see an increase each month as it pertains to revenues and patron counts,” Preston said. “We really feel we’ve grown the market and (are) excited about the months ahead.
“Our goal is to continue to grow our revenue. We continue to see our new patron enrollment number increase, which means that new customers are visiting us. So as long as we take care of them (and) continue to deliver great service, we think that we will continue to increase our market.”
Isle of Capri General Manager Dick Stewart has said the Isle’s revenue has been down over last year’s revenue in the months since Magnolia Bluffs opened.
“Our revenue has not increased over the prior year in those months,” Stewart said.
Stewart said based on tax revenue, it does appear that the market has grown, at least for now.
“That’s really not unusual because you’ve got a new property,” he said. “It’ll take at least three or four months to see how this is going to level out. It’s going to take time to see how this market looks.”
Natchez bucked the statewide trending over the past three months as total state gaming revenue was down in December, January and February, according to the Mississippi Department of Revenue.
The City of Natchez received approximately $249,000 in gaming taxes for December, January and February’s revenue, up approximately $52,000 from what it received in December, January and February in the 2011-12 fiscal year.
Adams County received approximately $124,000 in gaming taxes for December, January and February, an approximately $26,000 increase from the approximately $98,000 it received for those months last fiscal year.
The city and the county split a certain percentage of monthly gaming revenue as a local government fee, which varies depending on overall gaming revenue.
The city also receives 3.2 percent of gross revenue, of which 70 percent it keeps. The remaining 30 percent goes to the county.