Been there, done that.
On our way to Little Rock Arkansas from the Nashville, Tennessee area, we decided to spend a couple of days in Tunica, Mississippi. I had previously visited the casino resorts there a couple of times when I lived in Tennessee in the late 90’s and we both had flown into the Tunica airport on a Harrahs sponsored trip in the mid 00’s. During those visits, we stayed in 1 of 2 beautiful Harrahs’ properties where there were multiple first rate restaurants to choose from (Paula Dean (pre-PR debacle), Toby Keith, etc.) – live entertainment, walking paths, water features. There were constant shuttles to the other casinos nearby, shows and tours of Memphis. We had fun and enjoyed ourselves in this little town in the middle of nowhere that was ranked 3rd behind Las Vegas and Atlantic City for large casinos. For all of these reasons, we decided to make this a stop on our trip to Arkansas this spring.
Somethings is amiss.
As we left the Memphis outskirts and travelled towards Tunica, we started to see dozens of billboards with no signs or worse, ripped signs. There was also almost no traffic on the 4 lane road. We passed the outlet mall that had no visible occupants and a hand lettered sign out front advertising a twice a month flea market. The parking lot was littered with weeds and felt all together abandoned. Some of the green road signs used to direct visitors to local attractions lead visitors to abandoned buildings and dead ends.
We stopped at a gas station and bought a pop – it was 2 months passed its expiration date. In and of itself, this isn’t that big of a deal, but when combined with what we were seeing around us, it was very symptomatic of the larger state of degeneration surrounding us.
Curiosity piqued, we did a little research and found some old articles with a lot of finger pointing and political posturing about the cause of the downfall of the once booming town. Reading between the lines, it seems 2008 happened. Discretionary spending for most households dried up that year and people just weren’t spending enough money to keep the Tunica venture growing or even maintaining.
Then the area was hit with extensive flooding in the spring of 2011. As the casinos started to wither, the surrounding community and businesses followed. Unemployment in the area went from all-time lows to all-time highs.
Its depressing to drive along the roads now and see the abandoned buildings. I am sure they are unable to repurpose the buildings due to the litigious nature of our society, so there they stand and rot. What a waste. Some buildings were torn down, but the grass hasn’t taken over yet, so you can still see where they were. And some of the road signs still lead visitors to those spots.
This time around.
We stayed at the RV park at the Hollywood casino. The park is behind the casino, so we had a little more privacy than folks staying at Sam’s Town across the street where the park is on the main road. We had free high speed wifi (seriously awesome speeds!) and pool access for roughly $20/night. The Hollywood had one steak restaurant, one small buffet and a snack bar. We tried the buffet and it was pretty good food for a buffet and very reasonably priced.
The casino reeked of stale smoke and was heavy on old slot machines with poor odds. We don’t gamble much so if we aren’t having fun, we don’t hesitate to just walk away. We tried a couple of times at the Hollywood, but never did have much fun in this casino. Our experience was similar at the Horseshoe, a very dated looking casino with limited variety of slot machines. We would not recommend any of the casinos we tried.
Sad truth and fun fact.
If you need a one or two night stopover on your way to somewhere else, Tunica is fine. The RV park was nice, well maintained, had great internet and was very affordable. We definitely wouldn’t recommend Tunica as a destination or go out of your way to visit until it completes its sad transformation to a ghost town (fun fact: We love ghost towns!).