Sugar Bowl May Not Be As Sweet For Coast Tourism

Gavin Schmidt's purple and gold LSU flag flapped in the South Mississippi breeze. His Tigers earned a berth in the Sugar Bowl to play for a national championship.

"Oh it's very exciting," Schmidt said, wearing the purple and gold beads he bought at the SEC championship game over the weekend. "I was telling somebody earlier today I don't think it has truly hit me. I thought I would be a lot more excited than this."

Schmidt is an LSU alumnus. He's also the director of finance for the Palace Casino. So he has to temper his enthusiasm just a bit.

From a purely economic view, Schmidt thinks LSU versus Oklahoma won't bring many additional gamblers to South Mississippi casinos.

"LSU isn't necessarily good for the coast," the finance director said. "A home run for us is when Florida or Florida State or a Georgia is in it."

Georgia and Florida State played in last year's Sugar Bowl and January casino revenues topped $103 million. LSU played Illinois the year before. January revenues at the same 12 casinos were three percent lower.

And before that game, hotels around South Mississippi had a lot more empty rooms.

"Good afternoon. This is the Comfort Inn in Gulfport," said Rene Noble as he answered a Comfort Inn phone call.

Noble works in Gulfport's newest Highway 90 property. Usually, the Sugar Bowl would bring an assortment of stray guests to lobbies such as his. But with LSU and Oklahoma headlining the game, Noble doesn't expect many fans to leave New Orleans.

"Whether it happens or not, we'll wait and see," he said.

LSU has alumni groups all over the country. A few of them have contacted coast hotels to see if their chapters can spend the days leading up to the Sugar Bowl in South Mississippi.