Posted on: July 19, 2023, 11:06h.
Last updated on: July 19, 2023, 11:06h.
Local officials in Mississippi’s Tunica County are banking on a forthcoming wind energy farm to support the region’s economy, as casinos there continue to face challenges.
Tunica is one of the most impoverished counties, not just in the state, but in the entire country. The county, located in the northwestern part of Mississippi, continues to experience population decline, with less than 10,000 people residing in the riverboat casino town according to the US Census Bureau.
More than one in four Tunica residents live in poverty, with an annual median household income of only $41,200. The town’s situation would be worse if not for the introduction of riverboat casinos in the early 1990s.
Tunica’s riverboats used to represent one of the largest local gaming industries outside of Las Vegas and Atlantic City. However, with the expansion of commercial gambling across the US, particularly in neighboring Arkansas, Tunica’s gaming interests have struggled to retain customers, resulting in a decline in gross gaming revenue (GGR) for the riverboats.
Economic Gust Forthcoming
While the local economy has seen better days, Tunica officials are hopeful that a wind farm will help turn things around. AES, an energy producer based in Virginia, is constructing a utility-scale wind farm in Tunica that will primarily supply energy to Amazon.
Amazon operates fulfillment and sortation centers, a delivery facility, and a Whole Foods Market in northwestern Mississippi. The wind farm will be the first of its kind in the state.
According to Tunica officials, the wind farm will generate millions of dollars in annual property taxes for the county. This revenue will be used for much-needed improvements to the county’s public schools, which have consistently ranked among the lowest in the state in terms of K-12 test scores.
The construction of the wind farm has also created 300 temporary jobs, although the facility will only require a small number of employees for maintenance once it is operational. The wind farm is expected to be completed in early 2024.
These types of projects are not a cure-all for our community’s problems, but they’re a good starting point and a step in the right direction,” said Charles Finkley Jr., the director of the Tunica County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development.
Critics, however, have criticized the county’s decision to offer significant tax incentives to AES.
County officials argue that the wind farm will generate over $60 million in property taxes over the next 30 years. Without these incentives, the vacant property would have only been responsible for around $20,000 in property taxes during the same period.
Tunica’s casino industry currently consists of seven casinos: 1st Jackpot, Fitzgerald’s, Gold Strike, Hollywood, Horseshoe, Isle of Capri, and Sam’s Town. These properties are located in Tunica Resorts, which was previously known as Robinsonville until 2005.
Tunica’s annual gaming revenue declined each year from 2012 to 2020. Due to pent-up demand after the pandemic, the seven casinos experienced a nearly 20% increase in revenue in 2021, reaching $696.1 million. However, gaming revenue dropped by almost 9% in 2022, totaling $636.4 million.
During the 2000s and 2010s, Tunica’s casinos generated around $1 billion in annual gross gaming revenue.