Tunica, A Gambling Capital, Plans To Pivot Away From Casinos

  • Tunica County plans to sell almost $150 million in bonds to raise funds for renovating a former casino.
  • Tunica is one of the major gambling destinations in the American south.
  • The casino will be renovated into a convention center, with a water park and hotels attached as well.

TUNICA, Miss. - Tunica, Mississippi is known for being one of the top gambling locations in the American south.

However, with recent market trends favoring online sportsbooks and casinos, and the COVID-19 pandemic cutting deeply into 2020 revenue, Tunica County is seeking to pivot away from the gambling market in some form.

The plan is to sell $148 million in urban renewal revenue bonds in order to raise the funds for conversion of a former Harrah’s resort into a more family-friendly destination.

The resort, which closed in 2014, was the largest casino in the area at the time, and the plan to renovate it respects its 2,200 acre size.

Inside the former casino will be a water park, a convention center, two major hotels and a youth sports gym.

How Does The Plan Work?

Fundraising will be conducted via the issuance of these bonds, which are backed by the Tunica County government.

The proceeds of the sale will be offered as a loan to an LLC that will handle the construction of the complex, Tunica Hospitality & Entertainment LLC.

Then, Tunica Hospitality & Entertainment will begin construction on the renovations to the complex.

Finally, the deal includes a lease back - the County will lease the property from the hospitality company for up to 30 years.

Payments made on the lease will help to pay off the debt accrued by the company when it took on the loan from the proceeds of the original bond issuance.

This isn’t the only major gambling destination that is looking to transition to a more balanced economy - destinations as large as Macau are considering changes along the same lines.

It remains to be seen how many towns built on casino offerings will be affected by the proliferation of online gambling operators this year and beyond.