Casinos Hope Florida Gamblers Remain Loyal

Numbers in the newest gaming report indicate coast casinos have rebounded from their storm related slumps. November revenue totals jumped four percent.

In fact, according to the tax commission report, the $99.7 collected last month was the best November coast casinos ever had.

That's good news for Wendy Bryant. In a small house just a few steps from Casino Row, Byant has built a rather large tour bus business.

"So far, it's been a great destination," the bus operator said.

Almost everyday, a Bryant bus driver carries gamblers from Florida to a South Mississippi casino.

"It's a convenient destination," Bryant said. "They can keep the pricing down for the seniors and put them at a price range where they could come on a more consistent basis to gamble and enjoy themselves, without spending too much money."

Casino executives like Terry Schneider rely on the Florida seniors who take bus trips to the coast.

"It's a big part of our market," the Casino Magic Biloxi general manager said.

Bryant said that's especially true during snowbird season.

"They really need the motor coach industry coming in here, bringing in the senior groups out of Florida to fill in the casinos when they aren't as busy," she said.

Here's the problem. South Florida may approve casinos for specific race tracks in the sunshine state. And if that happens, Bryant's buses could lose a quarter to half of their regular customers.

As one Florida gambler boarded a bus to ride from Grand Casino Gulfport to Beau Rivage, he said slot machines in south Florida would be enticing.

"I would consider it, yes," the man said. "It depends on what they give you over there."

Bryant worries about what could happen to her buses if more people were like that man.

"We're just hoping that with them coming in from out of town, and doing an overnight package, wanting to get away for a change, that will keep them wanting to come in on the motor coaches to the Gulf Coast instead of just going right down the street and gambling," she said.

Last month, Florida voters gave people in Broward and Miami Dade Counties the right to hold a referendum on the casino question. If those areas approve the issue, slot machines will be allowed at race tracks in those south Florida counties.