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Miss. casino revenue stable after Harrah's closure

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Gambling revenues tumbled in Mississippi's river region in the first month after Harrah's Tunica Hotel & Casino closed, but the overall downward trend didn't worsen much. Meanwhile, Gulf Coast casinos posted their best June in years, winning enough that overall state casino revenues actually rose from June 2013, though by less than 1 percent.

Figures this week from the Mississippi Department of Revenue show casinos statewide won $174 million from gamblers in June. The 18 river casinos won $78.7 million, down 12 percent from a year earlier. That includes Harrah's, which Caesars Entertainment Corp. closed on June 2, eliminating nearly 1,000 jobs.

The 12 coastal casinos won $95.7 million, up 13 percent from a year ago and the best June in that region since June 2008.

Revenue statewide has fallen 4 percent over the last 12 months. Mississippi casino winnings are down about 25 percent from 2007's peak. Monthly overall revenue has fallen from the year earlier in 21 of the last 24 months.

Tunica Convention & Visitors Bureau CEO Webster Franklin said Tunica County saw receipts for June fall to $53.6 million from $62.3 million a year earlier. But the downturn from 2013 was about as steep in April and May, reflecting that business from Harrah's was already evaporating. Still, Franklin said it appeared that the remaining eight casinos in Tunica County had not captured the business that Harrah's lost, in part because that facility had the market's largest convention space and in part because Caesars reduced the number of chartered gambling flights.

"It didn't disperse gaming revenue within the market," Franklin said. "It shows an overall decline in the market itself."

Mississippi Gaming Commission Executive Director Allen Godfrey said he doesn't believe Tunica has hit bottom yet.

"Do I think that's probably where we're headed?" Godfrey said of June's results. "I'd like another month or two to see."

Godfrey, said the strength along the Gulf Coast was "very positive," even though the owners of Biloxi's Margaritaville Casino & Restaurant announced that it will close by mid-September. He said that it's realistic to expect slow growth in that region. Revenues there are up less than 1 percent over the last 12 months.

The numbers exclude Choctaw Indian casinos, which aren't required to report to the state.

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