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Largest gaming conference and trade show held outside Las Vegas

Thousands expected at ninth-annual Southern Gaming Summit

BILOXI — More than 5,000 casino professionals are expected at Southern Gaming Summit 2002, the largest conference and trade show outside of Las Vegas, May 8-9 at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center in Biloxi.

“We don’t have economic impact figures for this event, but according to the coliseum commissioners, it is the largest convention held there,” said Beverly Martin, executive director of the Gulf Coast Gaming Association. “We generate about 19,000 room nights over a four-day period.”

Registration for the summit, produced by the Gulf Coast Gaming Association and sponsored by the Harrison County Tourism and Economic Development Team, will begin at noon on Tuesday, May 7, and continues the following day. The conference will feature 15 seminars with top industry leaders as moderators and panelists concerning issues such as “Security and Surveillance: Beating the Cheats,” “Wall Street Update: The Recovery Continues,” and “Internet Gaming: Gambling On Cyberspace.”

“The first few years of the conference, most of the issues addressed were new jurisdictions and regulatory ones,” said Martin. “Casino gambling expansion into new areas and jurisdictions had exploded. Now that’s reached a plateau. Our focus is now more on the marketing and financial end, such as why expansions have ground to a halt and what types of opportunities may emerge overseas. Experts predict the next big growth area will be Internet gaming. That wasn’t mentioned nine years ago.”

Chief Phillip Martin of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Thomas Gallagher, president and CEO of Park Place Entertainment, and Jim Perry, president and CEO of Argosy Gaming, will be keynote speakers for the summit.

Moderators will include Jan Jones, vice president of government affairs for Harrah’s Entertainment, Tom Kitts, executive director of the Colorado Division of Gaming, and Robert Faiss, senior partner for Lionel Sawyer & Collins in Las Vegas.

“Events such as the Southern Gaming Summit increase the visibility and credibility of the industry in this region,” said John M. Gallaway, president of Isle of Capri Casinos, Inc. and panelist for “Problem Gaming: Looking at Both Sides of the Table.”

“Over the years, the summit has grown to attract people from other gaming markets to see and experience what has evolved over the past decade,” he said. “As operators of the South’s first casino, we are pleased to participate in the Southern Gaming Summit and support its continued contributions to our industry.”

Lois Rice, executive director of the Casino Owners Association of Colorado, will return for her third year as a panelist, this time fielding questions for “Gaming & Public Perceptions: Putting the Best Face Forward.” Rice was instrumental in directing a print campaign aimed at Colorado residents on the benefits gaming brings to the state. The 26-page report has already received two national awards.

“People are often surprised to learn that Colorado has 43 casinos, and it’s been a mission of ours to make the public aware of our casinos and to change public perception on gaming,” said Rice. “This latest campaign made a difference.”

In the last fiscal year, total gross adjusted proceeds for Colorado gaming were $463.7 million, with $54.3 million paid in total gaming taxes.

More than 200 exhibitors, ranging from AC Coin & Slot to Worldwide Locking Systems Inc., will be featured in the exhibit hall, where exhibit space packages begin at $1,495.

“When we first started, we almost had to give away exhibit space to get people to come down here because some people never thought gaming in Mississippi would pan out,” said Beverly Martin. “Now, we sell out.”

The University of Mississippi will facilitate Gaming Law, one of the four seminar tracks offered at the conference, a track that provides some continuing education credits. Casino Management Association, the only organization dedicated to professionalism in the gaming industry, endorses the seminar track Gaming Operations. Mid- and upper-level management executives attending those sessions will receive a certificate. Other seminar tracks are Gaming Technology and New Horizons.

“We’re doing what we wish the state universities would do, trying to educate ourselves,” said Martin.

New this year, the Southern Gaming Summit will feature entertainment by 2002 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Isaac Hayes, a multi-talented performer well known for the voice of Chef, the school cafeteria dude with a lusty appetite for life on the award-winning animated TV show, “Southpark,” and his starring role in the 1970s movie “Shaft.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at (800) 993-3392 or lwjeter@yahoo.com</a.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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