Every industry exists in a dynamic market that rewards those who keep in touch with consumers and respond proactively to competition.

At the 22nd annual Southern Gaming Summit, which will take place May 5-7 at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center in Biloxi, the educational program will show attendees how their industry is evolving to keep pace with its market. Here are some examples of sessions and how floor features that help point the way to the future:

Slot Machines—The trade show floor on May 6-7 will feature its inaugural “Best of Show” slot award competition. Many of the biggest names in slot manufacturing are already signed up for the competition, which is designed to recognize Best of Show slot games. Each manufacturer will designate one machine in their booth to be voted on by attendees at iPad stations, scoring the game on a scale of 1-10 in six different business and entertainment categories. The top three winning games will be announced on the closing afternoon of the trade show, Thursday, May 7.

On the conference side of things, Southern Gaming Summit will offer attendees a timely session that assesses the slot business in the aftermath of all the consolidation the industry saw last year, led by companies such as IGT, Bally, Aristocrat and Multimedia Games. Nobody understands the vendor side of the slot business better than Todd Eilers of Eilers Research, who will moderate Slot Machines in a Post-Merger World, with panelists from both sides of the vendor/operator equation.

Food & Beverage—Casino operators in regional markets across the country have reinvested in the hospitality side of the business, particularly in high-end restaurants that help differentiate properties in crowded markets. Our inaugural regional chefs panel on day two of the conference will feature panelists such as Kelly English, executive chef/owner, Restaurant Iris and The Second Line, Memphis, Tenn., and executive chef, Magnolia House, Biloxi, Miss.; John Folse, John Flose & Company; and Tom Ramsey executive chef/owner, La Finestra.

After the panel discussion, the chefs will participate in our first ever Regional Chef’s Cooking Demonstration and Tasting. Sponsored by Sysco, this lunchtime event will commence at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 7, on the trade show floor.

Tourism—The Mississippi Gaming & Hospitality Association has worked hard over the years to forge new marketing alliances that leverage the full power of our regional gaming destinations.  Our first ever Gaming Tourism Roundtable will address how we as an industry, working with other regional tourism stakeholders, are addressing the challenges of aging demographics, declining visitor counts, the need to increase length-of-stay and broaden the demographic appeal of the casino gaming product. The Roundtable will be held as a general session on Thursday May 7, and the speaker line-up is impressive: Renee Areng, executive director, Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau; Webster Franklin, president and CEO, Tunica Convention & Visitors Bureau; John Hairston, president and CEO, Hancock Holding Company, Hancock Bank and Whitney Bank; Misty L. Shaw, APR, MBS, CDME,& MCTP, director - programs and services, Louisiana Office of Tourism; and Rick Taylor, executive director, Hattiesburg Tourism/Convention Commissions, president, Mississippi Tourism Association.

These new conference and trade show features supplement a leadership program of sessions and networking opportunities that our attendees have come to expect over the years. On the conference side, Keith Smith, president and CEO of Boyd Gaming will deliver the opening keynote on Wednesday, May 6. The keynote will be followed by such high-profile sessions as a State of the States industry update, led by Andrew Smith, director of research, American Gaming Association, with legal and regulatory  leaders from Mississippi and Louisiana as well as Iowa and Pennsylvania; our annual Operators Roundtable composed of executives from Caesars, Golden Nugget, Hard Rock International and Churchill Downs; Tribal Gaming Legal and Regulatory update, with speakers from the National Indian Gaming Association and the National Indian Gaming Commission; and our annual Wall Street roundtable composed of leading gaming analysts from across the country.

On the networking side, Southern Gaming Summit on Tuesday, May 5, will once again host the popular Global Gaming Women’s Luncheon. Holly Gagnon, president and CEO, Pearl River Resort, will moderate a post-lunch discussion on career development for women in our industry with a panel that includes Tammy Farley, principal and co-founder, The Rainmaker Group; Sarah C. Jackson, senior vice president, human resources, Isle of Capri Casinos; Stacy Papadopoulos, general counsel, American Gaming Association; and Sherri Pucci-Sosa, assistant general manager, Harrah’s New Orleans Casino & Hotel. The luncheon will be hosted by Golden Nugget Biloxi.

We’ll kick things off Tuesday, May 5 with the annual Southern Gaming Summit/Bingo World golf tournament at The Bridges. There will also be a welcome reception Tuesday evening at the IP; and the annual opening night party at the Beau Rivage on Wednesday, May 6.

Full details on the event, including how to register, are available at www.sgsummit.com.

 See you there.