Soaring Gas Prices Could Ground Casino Profits - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

08/19/05

Soaring Gas Prices Could Ground Casino Profits

One simple tap, and Emma Fykes had three dollars riding on a slot machine spin. Three dollars -- today that barely buys one gallon of gas. Suddenly, family side trips from Mobile to Biloxi casinos must be curtailed.

Zelma Fykes has been married to Emma for 50 years. "Instead of coming back once every week, we'll come once every two weeks, because it's just too expensive to come over here," he admitted.

Chett Harrison and other casino marketing directors have quite a challenge in front of them. "You can't make them have more discretionary income," Harrison said. His job is to steer customers into parking lots and onto casino floors. But getting people to slot machines is tough, especially when gambling money keeps getting sucked into gas tanks. "Last year was a bit of an inconvenience and it did cause a little bit of an impact in their discretionary income," said Harrison, remembering that gas prices a year ago were $1.80 a gallon. "But this is serious now. This is a whole different ballgame now. It's taken most of their discretionary income."

Casinos count every customer who enters a property. So at Boomtown Casino, executives can already tell record gas prices are to blame for a slight decrease in head counts and a drop in the money gamblers risk.

Zelma Fykes put $24 in his Hyundai Sonata. Twenty four dollars in gas that Fykes couldn't give his wife while the Mobile woman tempted lady luck in Biloxi. "It's just too high, just too much," Mr. Fykes said.

Just then, his wife cut into the conversation. "The gas is too high," she said. However, "It isn't stopping me from having fun. I try to enjoy my life."

by Brad Kessie

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