Florida Storms Put Coast Casino Business At Risk - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

09/10/04

Florida Storms Put Coast Casino Business At Risk

Nancy Guadagno ordered a sandwich from the Treasure Bay deli counter. While she waited for her food, she told the clerk, "I may be back. If you don't get this storm and we do, I may be back this direction."

Guadagno is getting tired of being so far from home, "and out of money as well," she laughed. The Kissimmee, Florida resident spent almost two weeks in Biloxi, hiding from Frances and her powerful punch. "I love Biloxi. I could live here," she said. "But right now, I have to go home to Florida."

Surprisingly, the Florida hurricane was initially a big hit for the Mississippi hotels and casinos that catered to evacuees. Bernie Burkholder runs the Treasure Bay Casino. "Up until now, we really haven't seen a drop in business," he said. But that may be changing. For example, this week Treasure Bay lost 30% of its Florida tour bus business. And the fear around the casino industry is once Florida evacuees go home, their disposable money will be spent on repairs and cleanup, rather than on casino trips and slot machines.

Louise Newmeyer is one of the evacuees who can't afford another direct hit. "Well if it (Ivan) hits there, I'm going to lose it all," she said.

Burkholder realizes many of his Florida customers are in the same predicament. "I think people that have had to evacuate three times now are limiting their budget, and how they spend their budget," he said. Consequently, banks of South Mississippi slot machines may look lonely later this month -- especially if Ivan's wrath rips apart more Florida towns.

Mary Smith lives in one of those towns. And she's seen Ivan's path. She has her own prediction. "I'm hoping Ivan goes out into the Atlantic and hits the cruise ships," she laughed.

by Brad Kessie

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