Mississippi, the poorest U.S. state, is selling its first bonds backed by gambling taxes after its share of the winnings fell to the lowest since 1997, two casinos closed and its neighbors began looking at expanding into the business. Investors may still like the odds.
The $200 million of bonds carry Standard & Poor’s fifth-highest credit rating because the state’s gaming revenue covers the debt service 10 times over, even though it’s fallen almost 30 percent from the 2008 peak.
Potential competition from neighboring states, along with closures of a Harrah’s casino in Tunica and another on the Gulf Coast, may lead the the state to dangle higher-than-average yields to draw buyers to the offering on Wednesday, said Burt Mulford at Eagle Asset Management.
“There has been a trend of decline in this sector in terms of state gaming revenue,” said Mulford, a manager of tax-exempt funds for the St. Petersburg, Florida-based firm, which holds $2.4 billion of municipal bonds. “It’ll come at a very wide spread, at least initially, and because it’s a name a lot of managers don’t own, they’re going to want to add it.”...
In addition to the two casinos that closed last year, the Isle of Capri Casino in Natchez will shutter next month, according to bond documents. Offsetting that, a new one is set to be built by the end of 2015 along the Gulf Coast with more than twice as many slot machines and seven times as many table games.
Mississippi’s tax revenue from gambling fell in the 2014 budget year to about $164 million, a 17-year low, from as much as $230 million in 2008, according to offering documents. For the 12 months ended June 30, the collections totaled $167 million.
The state’s view on the gaming industry “is it’s going to be stable for quite some time,” Mark Valentine, director of the bond advisory division in Mississippi, said in an interview. “It’s not like there’s just one or two casinos.”.... Rest of article.
HB #1360 passed the legislature this year with almost no opposing votes. It passed the Senate on an unanimous vote while three representatives voted against it in the house.