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What to aid ailing casino market

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 18, 2014 at 11:13 am •  Published: June 18, 2014

TUNICA RESORTS, Miss. (AP) — As Tunica grapples with the Harrah's closure, the state of Mississippi hasn't acted to support the industry. But there are proposals under discussion that might bolster the remaining casinos and the tax revenue they produce. Here's a brief look at some:

—Increase tourism promotion. Mississippi plans to spend $4.88 million on tourism advertising and promotion in the budget year beginning July 1. That's far below tourism spending by neighboring states. The Tunica Convention & Visitors Bureau could also spend more, but it's mostly funded by casinos, and anticipates having less money after Harrah's closes. Scott Barber, the Caesars Entertainment executive who oversees Harrah's, the Horseshoe Casino Hotel and the Tunica Roadhouse Casino and Hotel, said the company would probably prefer to spend money itself instead of taxing itself to support the CVB. "We've always believed as a company we control our destiny better than a second or a third party."

—Give Tunica County a local sales tax to lure new development. Because Tunica County casinos are in unincorporated areas, the local government doesn't receive a share of the 7 percent sales tax collected by the state. The county has for years asked the Legislature to divert a share of sales taxes to help developers to build new attractions such as a water park, entertainment museum or family entertainment center. Webster Franklin, head of the Tunica Convention & Visitors Bureau, believes more attractions would diversify tourism, helping the local economy and casinos. Lawmakers, though, have been loath to share sales taxes with any entity but cities.

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