MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Another Tunica Casino will stop gambling operations this summer.
Penn National Gaming announced that it would close the Resorts Casino Tunica on June 30, leaving a six casinos in a county that boomed on gambling revenue in the 1990s.
The company, based in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, said that it has nearly 200 employees at Resorts and will try to place them at one of Penn National’s other two casinos in Tunica County. The company bought Resorts and what is now 1st Jackpot in March 2017, paying $44 million for two distressed casinos that had been taken over by their lenders. The company also operates Hollywood Casino Tunica, which is next door to Resorts.
Penn National leases the properties from Gaming and Leisure Properties Inc.
Tunica County boomed when gambling was legalized in 1992, becoming the only gambling destination for hundreds of miles. But employment at casinos peaked at 13,000 jobs in 2001, falling to less than 5,000 now, and revenues have been falling since 2006. Revenues in Tunica have shown an uptick in recent months since Mississippi legalized sports betting, but it’s unclear if that will be a long-term improvement.
Resorts was the smallest casino remaining in terms of slot machines and table games after Caesars Entertainment closed Tunica Roadhouse closed in January. Caesars closed the massive Harrah’s Tunica Hotel & Casino in 2014 when it was in bankruptcy.
Tunica has suffered in part because of increased gambling competition in Arkansas and other states. Arkansas voters earlier this month approved a referendum allowing four full-fledged casinos, including one at Southland Gaming & Racing in nearby West Memphis. Arkansas tax figures show Southland won $222 million from gamblers in the 12 months ended June 30, up more than 50 percent since 2014. Operator Delaware North announced a $250 million expansion of Southland in January.
“With our acquisition of Resorts Casino as part of the two property deal, we knew we were acquiring an aging barge in need of significant capital improvements,” Al Britton, Penn National’s senior vice president of regional operations, said in a statement. “While we did everything in our control to keep the property profitable over the last two years, increased competition from recent gaming expansion in Arkansas continues to drive the property’s business volumes lower.”
The closure means less tax revenue for state and local governments. Tunica County has struggled with declining tax revenue, with county supervisors having to step in and subsidize a full-time fire department that protects the unincorporated area of the county that includes the casinos because property tax collections fell after Harrah’s closed. A private utility district also defaulted on its bonds after Harrah’s closed.
WMC is reporting that lackluster revenue from sports betting is partially to blame.
TUNICA, MS (WMC) - Penn National Gaming, Inc. announced plans to close Resorts Casino Tunica soon, citing increased competition from gambling in Arkansas as a reason.
Tuesday's announcement by Penn National Gaming points to further consolidation in the Tunica casino market.
Area tourism leaders expressed optimism last year that sports betting could be a revival for Tunica, after years of revenue declines.
However, it appears no such luck.
An article, published in the New York Times Tuesday, says sports betting revenue hasn’t lived up to what officials expected. It’s off by roughly half.
"It's not turning out to be a lifesaver for those casinos," said Michael Nelson, WMC political analyst.
At the end of January, Caesars entertainment ended gambling operations at Tunica Roadhouse Casino, but kept the hotel open.
In 2014, Caesars closed Harrah's Tunica.
Penn National also operates 1st Jackpot and Hollywood Casino. They plan to keep them open.
The company wrote a statement saying Resorts casino was in need of significant capital improvements and "...increased competition from recent gaming expansion in Arkansas continues to drive the property's business volumes lower."
Last year, Arkansas voters passed an amendment allowing casinos at a handful of locations in the state. Southland in West Memphis was one of them.
Weeks ago, Southland officially changed its name to Southland Casino Racing. It promised a $250 million expansion, including a 20-story hotel tower, set to open next year.
State records show revenue continues to grow there.
"It's going to really cut into the Memphis, Shelby County business that Tunica has relied on for almost 30 years now," said Nelson.
"They used to have a bus to come here and we came twice a week sometimes every week," said Tammy Johnson, Arkansas resident.
Tammy Johnson is an Arkansas resident and has been driving to Tunica casinos from near Little Rock for 15 years.
She says once gaming operations are full scale in the natural state, she probably won't be back to Tunica.
"As soon as they get it all built, they build it to make it more casino like, I will be going there," said Johnson.
We reached out to the Tunica Convention and Visitors Bureau for comment Wednesday, but did not hear back.
The operator says the casino has roughly 200 employees who will be offered open jobs at other properties, including on the site in Tunica.
It's a little surprising that they are keeping open the one with no hotel, but I guess that's less overhead. In the time of combining services, etc, one would think that the location within walking distance to your other casino would be better, but I guess they don't feel that way. RIck stayed at Resorts this last week and thought he might be the only, or one of few staying there.
I wouldn't be too surprised to see Fitz and/or Sam's on the chopping block next. Very sad.
The writing was on the wall here for awhile. From what I saw, Penn National did nothing after it bought Resorts. It's always seemed boring and lifeless to me and they didn't change a thing.
At least they demolished the hotel at Bally's instead of everyone having to see a failed hotel on the way to the casino. 1st Jackpot has been hopping fairly well since they've bought it. It's easy to get a free meal and a decent free gift for minimal play. I don't know if that started before or after Penn took over.
Resorts was never that high on my list. Stayed there a couple of times. Guess I missed the boat, as I haven't been back there since Penn National bought it. We thought of it this last trip, but didn't happen. I won't be back before it closes. Haven't been to 1st Jackpot either, but there's still time for that I guess!