- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 28, 2018

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Caesars Entertainment will close a second casino in Mississippi’s Tunica County, as the region’s years-long decline in gambling revenues continues to weigh on business.

The Las Vegas-based casino behemoth announced Tuesday that it will close the Tunica Roadhouse Casino at the end of January, citing “persistent declines in business levels in the area stemming from increased competition.”

The move will leave the county just south of Memphis, Tennessee, with seven gambling halls. Caesars will keep open the 135-room hotel attached to Tunica Roadhouse, operating it with its neighboring Horseshoe Tunica hotel and casino.

Regional president Scott Barber said in a statement that the move was an effort “to appropriately position our business for the current market opportunity and ensure the long-term viability of our remaining operations in the vicinity.”

The Mississippi Gaming Commission reported in October that Tunica Roadhouse had 377 casino employees and 36 hotel employees. Caesars said employees would get hiring preferences at other company-owned casinos including the neighboring Horseshoe, and that workers who are laid off would get job search assistance and training. Some employees at Tunica Roadhouse are unionized, and Barber didn’t immediately respond to questions about whether the company was bargaining with the union.

Caesars closed the massive Harrah’s Tunica Hotel & Casino in 2014 when it was in bankruptcy. The company shed $16.3 billion in debt while it was being reorganized before emerging last year.

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. Tunica Roadhouse has the smallest casino floor among its competitors and the fewest slot machines.

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 Park Gaming and 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.

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.


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