ON the fringes of Hurricane Katrina’s path through the U.S. states of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, a Costa Rica based online gambling site reports a surge in business. Nine.com, a sports betting Internet site (sportsbook) based in San José, registered a 40% up-tick in the region, especially in Biloxi, Mississippi, where venerable riverboat casinos such as the Beau Rivage, Treasure Bay and Imperial Palace closed for repairs. And business keeps rising.“Apparently, the people living around there have not given up their zest for gaming,” Nine.com spokesman Jack Abrams told The Tico Times.During a routine Internet provider address analysis, in which the company can track where computer users are connecting from, Nine.com discovered the jump in sports gambling by both new and existing clients within 100 miles of Biloxi.“As soon as power began being restored in non-flooded areas, our numbers began to rise,” he said.HE initially attributed the surge to two factors: gamblers who regularly visit Biloxi are going online while the damaged casino town is under repair, and people who are suddenly jobless or on hiatus while reconstruction is under way have more free time at home to tinker with their computers.But another explanation might account for the upswing, Abrams said: Nine.com made an emergency relief delivery to displaced disaster victims in Houston’s Astrodome, which may have earned business among those who saw its name in the media.“We sent two 55-foot trailer trucks full of bottled water, food and blankets, and it hit a lot of newspapers in the area. It made a big splash. I personally flew down to the Astrodome in Houston (to pass out the supplies). We beat the National Guard there,” Abrams said.ANOTHER sportsbook consulted by The Tico Times had not tracked the Internet provider addresses that connect to it, but noted that there is always stronger business this time of year in the sports gambling industry. Eduardo Agami, owner of SBG Global Sportsbook, also based in San José, said his company has always drawn from a client pool heavy on U.S. southerners.“It’s difficult to pinpoint (what caused an increase in business) when the hurricane coincides with preseason football, baseball playoffs, the beginning of college football and the eventual beginning of pro football,” Agami, who is also president of the Costa Rican Data Processing and Call Centers Association – an association of sportsbooks – told The Tico Times.