Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Sid Salter: Casino Reopenings Signal Major Boost to State Revenues

Mississippi’s current leadership is taking a page from the state’s not-so-distant past by making the state’s gaming industry one of the first enterprises to be allowed to reopen as the state tries to come out from under the COVID-19 quarantine.

Why? Jobs and tax revenues. The American Gaming Association reported total direct, indirect and induced employment in the state’s gaming industry in 2019 at 32,884 with a payroll of over $1.3 billion, although other industry sources total direct casino employment at around 16,400.

Mississippi’s casino gaming industry, the source in Fiscal Year 2019 of $260.17 million in state and local tax revenues drawn from $2.14 billion in gross gaming revenues, was shut down by order of the Mississippi Gaming Commission on March 16 at midnight.

The Mississippi Gaming Commission and Gov. Tate Reeves released safety guidelines May 15 under which the reopened casinos will operate. The casinos will be limited to 50 percent capacity, table games and slot machines will operate, but under rules designed to observe social distancing. Screenings and face masks for casino staff will be enforced.

The gaming operators will be required to engage in a significant program of sanitation and disinfecting of their properties. Portions of their operations will remain closed. The casinos are likely to look and feel differently – as do most other activities in the COVID-19 pandemic universe – but the casinos will be open to customers.

Conservative estimates of the direct gaming tax revenue losses during the casino industry’s closure period would be $50 million. It’s likely more. But as Mississippi learned in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, getting the casinos open as soon as water, sewer, and power service was available was a key component in getting the Gulf Coast back on its feet.

Back in 2005, the Gulf Coast casinos in August earned $105 million in gross gaming revenues and over $33 million in tax revenues. After Katrina slammed the Mississippi Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, those figures for the months of September, October, and November were $0 and $0.

After Katrina, which produced a landscape on the Mississippi Gulf Coast that resembled Nagasaki after the atomic bomb was dropped to end World War II (not an exaggeration, I saw the Mississippi devastation on the ground and from the air), then-Gov. Haley Barbour shocked some supporters upstate by the high priority he placed on getting the casinos reopened.

But Barbour saw for the Gulf Coast in 2005 what Reeves and the state’s legislative leaders see today. The direct and indirect jobs and the tax revenues made getting the casinos open an easy call both then and now. As Barbour described in his memoir, the Republican governor could not have done that without the help and blessing of perhaps his most tenacious political rival – the late former House Speaker Billy McCoy, the proud Democrat from Rienzi.

McCoy, a man of deep faith, was opposed to gambling and so were most of this North Mississippi constituents. But McCoy set politics aside for the good of the Gulf Coast and the overall state. With McCoy’s support, a bipartisan coalition changed state law to legally move the “dockside” gaming houses onto land.

Of course, Katrina was different. The trouble in that day was the enormity of the destruction, the lack of ready labor, and the Third World conditions that existed there for a time after the storm.

The COVID-19 crisis brings with it uncertainty and the very real possibility of a resurgence of the virus if people refuse to follow the rules – wearing masks, practicing sanitation and disinfecting, and vulnerable people staying home. No pun intended, but that outcome is quite a large bet.

But people must have an opportunity to work and support their families. There are no sure things in the pandemic restart world, but the state’s gaming industry – because of jobs and tax revenue – is as good a place to start as any.

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at


Anonymous said...

God forbid the bloated state government reduce its size due to lost revenue. It’s always about the money in MS. Look how fast the legislature raced back to Jackson over that sweet sweet federal money.

Anonymous said...

In other news, rain sure is wet

Anonymous said...

Boy Sid loves that taxpayer money!

Anonymous said...

He lost me at " McCoy, a man of deep faith..." McCoy was deep in something. The Beef plant was one of them.

Anonymous said...

8:56 - there is no such thing as "federal money"

It's your money...that is , if you pay taxes.

The government doesn't have any money that it does not first take from you.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you haven't heard of the Federal Reserve 4:27. They'll hand out the money today and tax US for it tomorrow. They've been pouring out fresh made cash and calling it liquidity since Raygun was in the White House.

Anonymous said...

" Sid Salter: Casino Reopenings Signal Major Boost to State Revenues".

That Sid fellow is brilliant.

Who would have ever guessed state revenues might increase "

We are blessed to have Sid explain such complex issues to us.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe the people who pull the arms on the slot machines have any money for these pursuits.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS