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With Casino Cash Down, Future Uncertain for Tunica

An uncertain future for Tunica, Mississippi. Tunica County's operating budget is short millions, mainly from declining casino revenues.
TUNICA, MS (abc24.com) - There's an uncertain future for Tunica, Mississippi. Tunica County's operating budget is short by millions, mainly from declining casino revenues.

They've been dropping over the last five years so something has got to give.

"I don't think gaming will ever get back to height it was," says Tunica County administrator Clifton Johnson.

More competition, bad weather and fewer visitors: there's a myriad of possible reasons why Tunica's casinos revenues are dropping off.

"It's not necessarily a pretty picture," Johnson tells abc24.com. No matter the cause, the bottom line isn't good.

Last year all nine casinos were closed by the Mississippi River's record flooding.

Profits dropped big time. This year was supposed to be better, but Johnson says, "Even this year has not stopped the decline. We'll end about three percent below what we collected last year." That's below when casinos were shut down, with no gamblers, for weeks.

Overall profits dropped an average of 30 percent the past few years.

"Casinos are boats," says local business owner Annie Meredith. "A lot of people forget that they can just move right on down the water when they get ready. What does that do for Tunica County?"

It doesn't look that grim yet, but the county is facing a $3 million budget shortfall.

"When you have the decline in gaming revenues, which we primarily have been living from, we have to look at other things to offset revenues," says Johnson.

Residents are facing a 30 percent property tax increase. Even worse, the future doesn't look that much brighter.

The county is working to diversify, hedge its bets and bring in more business outside of casinos.

"By recruiting other industry and manufacturing," Johnson says. "There again, that still costs money. The next two years are critical for the county to secure our future."

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