Tunica Outlet Mall Has Trouble after the Casino Nearby Closed Its Doors
A Tunica outlet mall, Casino Factory Shoppes, is having trouble keeping its doors open after traffic to the mall’s casino declined in the past 5 years. Large retail businesses are dropping out of the outlet mall, while smaller businesses are moving into the complex.
The story of the closure of Harrah’s Casino across the street shows the negative economic impact a casino sometimes has on a community.
In this case, the Tunica Chamber of Commerce said that the casino in the outlet mall has dropped off by 4 million visitors in the past 5 years. Harrah’s Casino Tunica once was located across the highway from Casino Factory Shoppes. When Caesars Entertainment decided to close Harrah’s Casino in 2014, it was a huge blow to the business at Casino Factory Shoppes.
Anchor Stores in the Mall Closed
In December 2016, the outlet mall took another big hit. The remaining anchor stores in the mall moved out. They are called “anchor stores” for a reason, because the bulk of the visitors to the mall go to the bigger retail stores, which drives traffic to the more targeted outlet stores in the mall.
Tameesha Burton, who runs the Chocolate Factory boutique in the mall, said, “A lot of people don’t know that there are stores even over here and when they do come through and be like I don’t even know you’re here.”
New Outlet Stores Open for Business
Mrs. Burton is representative of the new wave of business owners in the outlet mall. She opened Chocolate Factory two months ago, and hopes traffic to the outlet mall will increase over time.
To help drive business, Burton handed out business cards and fliers, to spread the word that businesses still operated at the mall. FoxNews 13 did a local interest story. Burton says of the hope that customers return over time, “I think it will [draw customers]…do you?…a lot of people that try to help out and give out my cards. We hope it does.”
Small Businesses Hope for Increased Traffic
Rod Jones, who runs the Auto Toy Store in the mall, is not quite as optimistic. Jones said that the exit of the national retail chain stores had a cascade effect on business. Those which survive in the new business environment will have to change their expectations and their business model.
Mr. Jones said, “All of the national chains are gone so now so now you’re going to second and third-generation boutiques small car lots like us small business will make up this Casino Shoppes Plaza.”
The Tunica Chamber of Commerce is dealing with tough times, too. A spokesman for the Chamber said revenues are down $20 million from where they were 8 years ago. The area’s casino industry never quite recovered from the Global Recession, the way other parts of the country have. Several factors are to blame.
Tunica County Casinos
Ten years ago, Tunica County, Mississippi was seen as the third major gaming destination in the United States, behind Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Hurricane Katrina hurt Mississippi’s Gulf Coast casino industry in city’s like Biloxi and Gulfport, but Tunica’s location at the north end of the state preserved its status.
The Global Recession hit Tunica casinos as bad or worse than most gaming destinations across the country. Mississippi has a weaker economy than most parts of America and many visitors to Tunica did not have the disposable cash to continue gaming at the land-based casinos there. Tribal casinos in nearby states also siphoned off customers, creating less of a margin for the casino operations in the county.
Harrah’s Casino Tunica’s Closure
Not all of the financial troubles were local. Harrah’s Casino Tunica, once known as the Grand Tunica Casino, was closed by Caesars Entertainment on June 2, 2014. While the casino might not have been as profitable as it once was, the closure had more to do with Caesars Entertainment’s financial instability than it did local issues. At the time, Caesars Entertainment had $23 billion in debt, due to a leveraged buyout executed in January 2008 — only months before the Global Recession hit. Caesars closed the Showboat in Atlantic City around the same time, as part of an overall downsizing.
Eventually, Caesars Entertainment’s operations division, CEOC, filed bankruptcy in January 2015. That led to a highly publicized lawsuit and bankruptcy battle which only recently was resolved.
It was the closure of Harrah’s Casino Tunica which caused the current troubles for Casino Factory Shoppes. Without a casino next door to draw traffic, the outlet mall began its own financial death spiral. One can hope the outlet stores still in operation can stay in business. One bit of good news is the Tunica Chamber of Commerce says the local casino industry has stabilized.
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