Issue 82
April 2 - 8, 2002
Volume 3
page 2

(...Continued from page 1)
Tunica Casinos Change Face of Rural Mississippi

keep the roads passable, the sewers working and the schools open.

"We had a planning commission but it never met. There was nothing to plan for," Franklin said.

Now, because of casino taxes, the county's annual budget is $80 million. So far, it has collected more than $255 million from the casinos.

"Tunica County is debt free," Franklin said, "and projects are paid for with cash."

At first, Tunica spent most of its casino money on roads, sewers, and other improvements that would help attract more riverboats. Property taxes were eliminated.

The county also built two new schools and a small medical center. The jail was remodeled, and "things that were broken were fixed," Franklin said.

Tunica is now building a 168-acre riverfront park and putting in a 7,000-foot runway at its small airport.

The casinos have created more than 15,000 jobs, and Tunica County has a total population of just 9,200.

Most of the casino workers came from Memphis and surrounding communities in Mississippi and Arkansas. Last year, the casinos paid out more than $90 million in salaries.

Before the casinos, farm work provided modest incomes for most of Tunica's residents and unemployment rate was 26 percent.

By latest count, unemployment is 5 percent, and per capita income has increased from $11,875 to $20,203.

The number of Tunica residents on welfare has dropped 90 percent, and food stamp distributions have dropped 70 percent.

In recent years, the casinos have expanded their advertising outside the Memphis region.

Harrah's TunicaThe casinos estimate that 29 percent of their gamblers last year were from Tennessee, while 18 percent were from Arkansas and 13 percent from Mississippi. The other 40 percent came from a variety of states, mostly in the South and Midwest.

Overall, the regional economy has improved since the casinos arrived, said Jeff Wallace a University of Memphis economist.

"Many of the initial fears people had on the negative impact on the community simply haven't happened," Wallace said.

Eighteen of Mississippi's 30 casinos are along the Mississippi River, with the rest on the Gulf Coast.

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The riverboats in the "North River Region," which includes Tunica's casinos plus another at the town of Lula, had gross revenues last year of more than $353 million.

The state does not report on finances from individual casinos.

But while the casinos have brought money and jobs, they undoubtedly have had hidden costs as well, said Andy Meyers, a University of Memphis psychologist.

Meyers runs a clinic in Memphis for victims of compulsive gambling. Since opening in 1999, largely because of the casinos in Tunica, the clinic has treated more than 120 patients.

No records are available on how many bankruptcies, divorces and other problems can be directly linked to gambling, but national studies give an idea on their social costs, Meyers said.

Most people who patronize casinos gamble for entertainment, but up to 5 percent are at risk of becoming compulsive gamblers. And it is clear, Myers said, that more people give gambling a try as casinos become more accessible.

Las Vegas Sands Moves to Net Gaming - LAS VEGAS- Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Inc., the parent company of the Venetian mega-resort on the Las Vegas Strip, has announced that it is "actively pursuing the possibility of developing and operating an Internet gaming site." The company’s online gambling efforts were disclosed yesterday in an annual report with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company said it had entered into a joint venture agreement in January 2002 "to assess the feasibility of developing and operating an Internet gaming site," but it did not identify its partner or specify how close it is to launching an Internet casino or where it was looking to do this. The company stated only that it needed a license "to operate the venture from a jurisdiction where Internet gaming is legal."

Alabama-Coushattas To Fight for Texas ''Entertainment Center'' - FORT WORTH, TX- The Alabama-Coushatta Indian tribe in Texas is battling for its casino, the Alabama-Coushatta Entertainment Center near Livingston, to remain open.

Texas Attorney General John Cornyn's office says the games offered at the tribe's casino violate state law prohibiting gambling, but the tribe contends that it is a sovereign nation with the power to govern its own activities.

The Alabama-Coushatta’s struggle comes on the heels of a similar fight between the state of Texas and the Tigua Indian tribe, which was ordered to close its Speaking Rock Casino near El Paso in February.

Although the Tigua closure was a blow to Indian gaming in the state, the Alabama-Coushatta say they are confident they will win their casino fight. "It's going to stay open," tribal spokeswoman Sharon Miller said last week. Leaders of the Alabama-Coushatta tribe made their case in Lufkin federal court on April 1.

The hearing became an argument over words, with tribe officials describing their operation as a "private club" or "entertainment center" while state officials called it an illegal "casino."

Kid Rock

Kid Rock will perform at The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel Casino on April 11.

Detroit's Kid Rock (born Bob Ritchie) appeals to a diverse audience, which is no surprise considering his music is a wildly eclectic mix of styles including rap, metal, Southern rock, hip-hop, blues, country and just about anything else you can think of.

$55.50, $105.50

8:00 pm

Reservations Recommended

For more information please call: (800) HRD-ROCK
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