Now would be a good time to show solidarity with the region and its gaming industry and attend the Southern Gaming Summit.

Every spring the snow melts, flowers bloom, temperatures warm and attendees gather in Biloxi, Miss., for the annual Southern Gaming Summit, which will take place May 4-5 at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum & Convention Center.

The trade show and conference, presented by the Mississippi Casino Operators Association and BNP Media, the parent company of this magazine, has become an annual rite of spring for anyone interested in the Gulf Coast gaming marketplace. Now in its 18th year, the event is once again paired with the BingoWorld Conference & Expo, and together they form the largest North American commercial gaming trade show held outside of Las Vegas.

In today’s economy size does matter for trade shows and the combined draw of these two events has attracted the best-of-the-best in both the casino and bingo worlds to present at the conference and display on the trade show floor. The sessions at Southern Gaming Summit will focus on the marketing, with industry experts addressing topics such as loyalty marketing, direct mail, player tracking and promotions. For example, the session “Marketing Survival Strategies: Building Loyalty in a World of Plenty” features well-respected speakers such as Ginny Shanks, executive vice president & chief marketing officer, Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc, and Randall Fine, managing director, The Fine Point Group. Meanwhile, “Direct Mail: How to Get the Most Out of Your Casino Marketing Workhorse” will be led by Gary Border, president, Marketing Results Inc, and include presentations from Michael Broderick, director of marketing, Lake of the Torches Resort Casino, and John McKie, managing partner of Godwin Group. Fifty speakers have committed to speak at this year’s Southern Gaming Summit.

BingoWorld presenters will also delve deeply into marketing issues. “Bingo University” is a half-day workshop on the creation, math and marketing of promotions, led by bingo hall manager Clyde Bock and consultants Larry Farrell and Toby O’Brien. “How to Lose Players in Four Easy Steps” will feature Stephanie Maddocks, president of Power Strategies, and Steve Weller of Planet Bingo, both of whom will answer questions surrounding player tracking and loyalty programs. All told, more than 25 experts will be on hand to share their knowledge throughout the BingoWorld conference.

As is always the case, Southern Gaming Summit and BingoWorld attendees will be offered plenty of chances to network between sessions, on the trade show floor and at evening entertainments such as Taste of the Casinos – Southern Sunsets.

The trade show floor itself will feature displays from such casino and bingo heavy hitters as Bally Technologies, International Game Technology, Aristocrat, WMS, Multimedia Games, Capital Bingo, Planet Bingo and Bingo King. If you want to know more about some of the products featured at the trade show, turn to the article on page 26 and to the vendor advertorial section starting on page 44. For up-to-date information on Southern Gaming Summit and BingoWorld, please visit www.sgsummit.com.

This year’s show comes at an interesting time for the Gulf Coast gaming industry. It appears that the market has finally bottomed out from the impacts last year’s oil spill and the ongoing recession. Indeed, casino revenues have stabilized, with some experts predicting modest growth for the market going forward. Operators are responding with expansions and new project proposals, despite ongoing difficulties securing financing for new brick-and-mortar construction and the fear of cross-border casino competition (see story on page 20).

Now would be a good time to show solidarity with the region and its gaming industry and attend the Southern Gaming Summit. Complacency can be a killer, especially in a market just emerging from a lengthy economic winter.