Caesars Entertainment says it’s making the difficult but needed decision to end gaming operations at the Tunica Roadhouse Casino in Mississippi.

Caesars Entertainment Tunica Roadhouse casino

The gaming floor at Caesars Entertainment’s Tunica Roadhouse will soon take its final bet. (Image: Tunica Roadhouse/Casino.org)

The 31,000-square foot casino has struggled in recent years, as have many gaming properties in the area. The riverboat once housed 36 table games and more than 1,300 slot machines, but the Mississippi Gaming Commission reports that in October it had just 17 tables, and 689 terminals.

After exploring every other viable alternative, we have come to the difficult but necessary conclusion to cease gaming operations at Tunica Roadhouse in 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,” Caesars Entertainment Mid-South Regional President Scott Barber said in a statement.

Opened as the Sheraton Casino and Hotel Tunica, Caesars took ownership of the property in 2004. The 135-room hotel will remain in operation, but casino floor will go dark February 1, 2019.

Mississippi presently has 28 riverboat casinos, and the state breaks them up into three groups based on their location. Twelve are in the “Coastal” category, seven in “Central,” and nine in “Northern,” the latter being the Tunica class.

Riverboats Underwater

Tunica casinos have suffered as a result of gaming expansion throughout the US. When Mississippi lawmakers legalized riverboats in 1990, gambling was only available in Nevada and Atlantic City.

At the time, residents hailed the authorization as the “Tunica Miracle,” as 14,000 jobs were created and the small town became a tourism destination.

Gross gambling revenue (GGR) eclipsed $1 billion annually, but today the Tunica gaming industry is performing less than half of its all-time highs set in the early 2000s. GGR totaled $595.5 million in 2017, a 5.7 percent decline on 2016.

With the Roadhouse casino closing, Tunica will be home to eight riverboats come February. Adjacent to the Roadhouse is Caesars’ Horseshoe, the largest gaming floor in the area measuring 63,000 square feet. The casino offers 101 table games and 1,020 slot machines.

Sports Betting Assist

Tunica casino operators have been desperately seeking a way to reverse their fortunes. They called on state lawmakers to lift the water requirement that keeps them along the Mississippi River in hopes of avoiding another devastating flood similar to the one experienced in 2011.

Because of the water mandate, Tunica casinos aren’t actually in Tunica, but about 10 miles north in Robinsonville.

While they haven’t yet been allowed to come ashore, the casinos have received sports betting. Prior to the Supreme Court’s repeal of the federal ban in May, Mississippi lawmakers passed a sports wagering regulatory bill in 2017 should a favorable ruling come via the high court.

Sports wagering is up and running at six Tunica casinos including the Horseshoe. The sportsbooks took in $32.8 million in wagers last month, but won just $1.17 million on a 3.6 percent hold.

Caesars Entertainment is partnered with Scientific Games for its sports betting operations in Mississippi. Along with the Horseshoe Tunica, the gaming technology company handles sports wagering at Caesars’ Gulf Coast Hotel and Casino in Biloxi.