Miracle of Tunica
Once considered to be the nationís poorest county, Tunica
discovered a new cash crop to go with its cotton, soybean and rice fields ... casino gambling.
Since its inception in 1992, Tunica now sees its ten casinos raking in $1.1 billion in revenue annually. For gambling destinations, that puts it third
behind Las Vegas and Atlantic City, and ahead of Reno, Lake Tahoe and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
As a result, unemployment has gone from 26.2% to about 5%.
An estimated 50,000 people flock daily to Tunica County, which boasts only 8,500 residents.
On weekends, most of the 6,000 hotel rooms are taken, and itís 1 a.m. before thereís even a
noticeable subsiding of activity on the gambling tables. 18 miles south
of Memphis, Tunica attracts tourists from all over the south and midwest.
Many are members of Tom Brokaw's Greatest Generation, arriving in cars,
campers and tour buses.
The Tunica area has 50 restaurants, some typical of the small-town South, and thereís fast food as well.
But for something different, try the Hollywood Cafe.
In his hit "Walking in Memphis" Mark Cohn sang about Muriel who "plays piano every Friday at the Hollywood." This is that
Hollywood. Muriel has passed on, but the spirit of her music remains. Music is offered every Friday and Saturday night until about
11, currently from a one-man band. Famous for its fried pickles, the menu includes hubcap burgers, a plate-lunch special, catfish and hoagies.
Another favorite for a "meat and three" plate lunch is the Blue & White Restaurant in Tunica, about 10 miles from the casinos. The down-home
breakfasts include biscuits, grits, country ham and authentic red-eye gravy
Itís not all gambling in Tunica's casinos. The Grand and Gold Strike have spas and pools. Several others have swimming pools. The
Grand has its own golf course, Cottonwoods, designed by Hale Irwin. Harrahís, Hollywood and Samís Town
have their own golf course, River Bend Links, which has fewer amenities.
The Grand also offers sporting clays at the Willows. Sporting Clays, often referred to as "golf
with a shotgun," is the fastest growing
shooting sport in the country. Unlike the
regulated games of trap and skeet, sporting
clays simulates a realistic hunting
environment, presenting shooters with
varying targets in a safe controlled
For fishing, there are guides who will take you on the river from a landing near the casinos.
The Blues & Legends Hall of Fame, part of the Bluesville complex
of the Horseshoe Casino & Hotel. The hall of fame is just inside the hotel, and any music lover will be entertained. Thereís Stevie
Ray Vaughnís last guitar, harmonicas donated by Bob Dylan, B.B. Kingís 1996 "Lucille" guitar, and memorabilia from such greats
as Buddy Guy, Albert King and Bonnie Raitt. A section follows the timeline development of the blues from W.C. Handy through
Robert Johnson to todayís stars. Itís a stunning array, and Horseshoe paid for its development, which was conceived by the Blues
Foundation in Memphis.
Some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry fill the theaters and
showrooms of Tunica. Joe Walsh, the Everly Brothers, Foreigner and CCR are among
the acts appearing in the next couple of weeks. The Gold Strike features magician
Brett Daniels who is under contract for the next several years. While not quite
producing the magic of an act like Seigfried & Roy, Daniels has many fans.
Oxford, where Nobel Prize winner William Faulkner lived, and the home of the
University of Mississippi, is a couple of
hours away. Its about a thirty minute drive to Memphis, where one can visit
Graceland to see if Elvis is still dead.
With its combination of non-stop action, world class facilities and a relaxed
Southern atmosphere, Tunica offers gamblers an experience like no other.