Casinos Count On Tour Buses For Southeast Business

Willie Span and his friends are proud to say they're from Augusta, Georgia. The football fans rode a tour bus to Biloxi for a weekend of gambling and football.  According to one Georgian, "We would love to see Atlanta whip New Orleans."

This is not the first time the Georgia has made this bus trip.  One man said, "We come every year. Whenever the Falcons come play the Saints, we come with them."

Norma Chmura sat a slot machine row away from the Georgia group. Just like she does once a month, she took a Pensacola tour bus here. And she left her husband at home.  "It gives us a day off during the month," Chmura said.  "And we're not bonded at the hip. He stays home with the sailboat and I come and have a day of fun."

Chmura rode over on one of the 35 Florida motor coaches that Vicki Stevison books every week.  "We did have a growth this last month of about 1,000 customers over last year," Stevison said.  "But it has probably leveled off as far as casino traffic."

Casino Magic hosted a luncheon to recognize it tour bus operators. Last year these people brought 5,500 buses to the casino. This year that number may reach 6,000.  According to the casino's group sales manager Gloria Frey, "They have created a lot of loyalty to our casino. And this has built for the last eight years."

"They have increased my business by helping me," Stevison said.  "And I've increased their business."

That casino/tour bus partnership is treating bus riders to true southern hospitality.  And that's paying dividends.  According to casino executives, tour bus operators generate millions of dollars in revenue for the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast.

by Brad Kessie