Coast Casinos Question Mississippi Power's Rate Hike Request

The coast gaming association is one of eight groups that contacted the public service commission to say the rate hike is unfair. In the casinos' case, a 9.5% increase in power bills would cost them at least an extra three million dollars a year.

Every flashing neon sign and ever coast casino slot machine uses Mississippi Power electricity. As a group, the 12 casinos shell out anywhere from $30-50 million a year to pay their electric bills.

"We're very, very conscious about energy consumption here," Palace Casino General Manager Keith Crosby said. "And it's reflected in our bill. And at the same time, we get a lot of advice and instruction from the power company to help conserve our power."

Now Mississippi Power is trying to get the state Public Service Commission to approve a 9.5% rate hike. If it's approved, power officials say it would be the first substantial rate increase in almost 10 years. But the request isn't sitting well with the Gulf Coast Gaming Association.

Beverly Martin is the executive director of the gaming group. She said the rate hike request "is something that we feel may be excessive."

The gaming association believes Mississippi Power's rate hike proposal would cost casinos at least three to five million dollars a year more than they're paying now. "And for us as a business responsible to either owners or to stockholders," said Crosby, "we've got a fiduciary responsibility to be concerned about escalating costs. And this would be one that would have an affect on all of us."

That's why the casinos filed papers to intervene in the Mississippi Power rate hike request.

Power company executives say the casinos have a right to question the 9.5% increase. According to Mississippi Power's Kurt Brautigam, "There's no surprise in that there are varying opinions and differing perspectives that some of our customers will bring to this process. Again, that's part of the process. We welcome it."

Kurt Brautigam said Mississippi Power's proposed rate hike would generate about $46 million for the company. The Public Service Commission will hold hearings on the request in early November.