(BILOXI, Miss.) May 22 -- Opal Bond visits casinos about three times a week. The 83-year-old is not a fortune hunter or an addict. After her husband died, the slots became her escape.
"Because I can't go sit in church alone," she says, "and it's all strangers to me. The cemetery's already full of people I went to high school with and went off to the military with."
So Opal isn't likely to slow down on her slots, but it appears other casino customers aren't willing to play their hands during hard times. Business is down by nearly 10% at Mississippi Gulf Coast Casinos from this time last year.
Keith Crosby runs the Palace Casino and considers himself lucky his bottom line just stayed about the same. "Reality is the economic conditions and the price of gas," Crosby says. "Most of the industry anticipated what was going to happen and now it's here."
In the numbers game, Crosby says the number of people actually crossing through his doors has not gone down. But once they get inside, he says they max out a lot faster. "People are being more careful with the amount of money they spend."
Like Diane Skinner who visits the coastal casinos from Atlanta. "I like to come once a month, at least every two months," she says, "but I won't be doing that till the prices go down."
Crosby believes the industry will survive this bad turn, just as Opal survives, finding some solace in the slots.
"That's what it is, it's therapy."