Mississippi casino revenues fall again in January

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi casino revenue continued to tumble in January, with gamblers losing less than in any other January since 1997.

Statewide casino revenue fell 9 percent to $161.2 million, according to Mississippi Department of Revenue figures.

The state's gambling halls eked out a 1 percent gain in 2012, because revenue rebounded after most Mississippi River casinos were affected by 2011's floods. But year-over-year casino revenue has fallen in every month since July.

The 18 river casinos from Tunica to Natchez won $77.9 million, down 13 percent from the $89.2 million they won in January 2012. The 12 coastal casinos won $83.3 million from gamblers, down 5 percent from the $87.8 million they won in January 2012.

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

Revenues rose at Mississippi casinos in 2012 after falling every year since peaking in 2007. But even with the slight rise, they remained 22 percent below the top level.

Revenue was higher at coastal casinos in January than at river casinos, although the river market is traditionally larger. January is typically one of the weakest months at the river casinos, while it's somewhat stronger along the Gulf of Mexico.

Part of the recent weakness at Tunica and Lula casinos has been competition from expanded gambling venues in Arkansas. But, Mississippi Gaming Commission Chairman John Hairston said it's wrong to chalk up all the casinos' problems to rivals in other states.

"We are in a recessionary period," Hairston said after the Gaming Commission meeting Thursday. He said competition "is not the only factor" and he believes that the casino sector could resume growth.

Next door, Louisiana's state-licensed casinos won $185 million from gamblers in January, basically flat from the same month in 2012.

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