Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports · March 16, 2019 at 2:00 pm
Larry Gregory and the Mississippi Gaming & Hospitality Association want to
return the Southern Gaming Summit to its glory days.
They’re on their way after rebooting the show last year, their first after
assuming 100 percent ownership of the conference.
For the second consecutive year, the show, which was founded in 1994,
returns to the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi. Projections call for
approximately 1,300 people to attend this year, bettering the 1,000 that
attended a year ago. The number of gaming manufacturers in attendance is
also slated to increase. The three-day Summit runs is set for May 7-9.
Mississippi gaming is in a better place following the U.S. Supreme Court’s
May ruling that a federal ban on single-game sports wagers was
unconstitutional. That opened the door for states outside of Nevada to offer
sports betting for the first time.
Gregory, the MGHA’s executive director, attributes the launch of sports
betting in the state in August – some 26 years after casinos first opened on
the Gulf Coast – for the state’s casino visitation numbers increasing from 22
million in 2017 to 24 million in 2018.
That’s translated into gains in revenue, including gaming, which rose 2.2
percent in Mississippi to $2.12 billion in 2018. Sports betting launched ahead
of college football season, which is very popular in the South.
“Revenues are better than expected,” Gregory said. “I’m not saying they offthe-
charts better, but we are pleased with them. And it’s not only sports
betting revenue – we’re also seeing gaming revenue going up. We’re seeing
new faces. I hear that from members all the time. We’re seeing a crowd that
we have never seen here before.”
The summit brings together casino operators and vendors, lawyers,
regulators and finance professionals to discuss gaming practices and
innovations in the industry. In the long term, the plan is to focus on growing
attendance and bringing in more vendors.
“The Southern Gaming Summit (exists) to showcase the South and how
prominent the region is, and we’re proud of it,” Gregory said. “There’s a lot of
competition out there. The summit gives us visibility. Our goal is to get it
back to its glory days once again. And this year’s show is going to be much
better than last year’s. There’s no doubt.”
The conference will feature several educational panels on sports betting,
reflecting the excitement about the growth of the Mississippi gaming industry
with the addition of sports betting, Gregory said.
“Mississippi has always been a great gaming destination, and there’s been a
lot of expansion in our neck of the woods,” Gregory said. “We want to show
the world we’re a prominent gaming and tourist destination. We’re trying to
keep this show creative and imaginative.”
There’s also been a large investment in non-gaming in the region, to attract
tourists and make the area a destination that offers more than just “putting a
quarter in the slot machine.” The intent is to give people a reason to visit the
Gulf Coast and discover what it offers, he said.
Sara Slane, senior vice president of public affairs for the American Gaming
Association, will be one of the keynote speakers, along with Gavin Isaacs, the
chairman of SBTech and former CEO and president of Scientific Games.
Following a successful inaugural event last year, the Mississippi Gaming Hall
of Fame will induct the late William Silas Redd, a Mississippi native and the
founder of IGT, as part of its new manufacturing category.
Manufacturing attendance has slipped in previous shows, and the organizers
want to reverse that trend. Gregory said it’s expensive for manufactures to
ship slot machines, electronic table games and other equipment, and to bring
employees and staff to the show.
Perhaps signaling a shift in this philosophy, the Association of Gaming
Equipment Operators is one of the sponsors of this year’s conference.
“This is great news,” Gregory said of the AGEM’s sponsorship. “Regional
shows like the Southern Gaming Summit are competitive, and the return on
investment is getting slim. It’s (sometimes) difficult for manufacturers to
participate. We want to bring back as many people as we can, and
manufacturers are the key. They are the ones who drive a lot of this.”
“We’re trying to get manufacturers involved without having to set up all of
these machines,” Gregory said. “They want to meet and network and attend
panels like everyone else. We’re trying to bring them back into the fold to talk
about their products without having a hundred machines on display. We’re
adapting to the needs of the industry.”
For more information, see http://www.sgsummit.com/