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Gustav both a boon and bust

8 September 2008

MISSISSIPPI -- As reported by the Clarion-Ledger: "One storm robbed the Mississippi Gulf Coast of a profitable weekend, but others could drive in business.

"Hurricane Gustav scrapped vacation plans, community festivals and the normal clanging of holiday-weekend commerce ringing up sales tax. Casino revenues dipped several days surrounding the storm's glancing impact, and tourism took a blow, too.

"...The onslaught of evacuating Coast residents spiked hotel and motel occupancy rates. ... And with Hurricane Ike churning toward the Gulf of Mexico, there's no telling if it might all happen again.

"...The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency listed Friday evening a total of 13 state businesses with major damage, 36 with minor damage and one destroyed. Those numbers pale in comparison to Katrina's.

"..Evacuees looking to return to Louisiana started making hotel reservations shortly after Gustav hit, said Mary Cracchiolo-Spain, spokeswoman at the Beau Rivage Casino and Resort in Biloxi.

""Since parts of Louisiana are still without power, we're getting a lot of calls and reservations from Louisiana and people in Florida concerned about the next storms," she said.

"Derrin Turner and his family were some of those Louisiana evacuees. Toting his wife and three children through the Beau Rivage's lobby, he looked almost giddy. On the west bank of New Orleans, his home was still without power.

"...The Turners were only one family among hundreds to use Gulf Coast casinos this week for respite.

"Under a state mandate, the casinos shut down Sunday and were allowed to reopen hotels as early as Wednesday morning.

'Jim Ray, BancorpSouth regional president for south Mississippi, estimated the closure cost the 11 Coast casinos between $22 million and $28 million in gross revenue..."

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