In many places, March heralds the official beginning of spring; and for me this change in seasons means that another Southern Gaming Summit is just around the corner.

Indeed, this year’s Southern Gaming Summit, which will once again be held in conjunction with BingoWorld, will take place May 2-4 at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum & Convention Center in Biloxi, Miss. Since 2017 marks the 25th year of casino gaming in Mississippi, show organizers Mississippi Gaming & Hospitality Association and BNP Media, the parent company of Casino Journal, are pulling out all the stops, so to speak.

In addition to the social events regular showgoers have come to expect—the golf tournament, the Global Gaming Women luncheon, the welcome reception and the opening night party—2017 Southern Gaming Summit will also feature an impressive list of featured speakers, headed by Jim Allen, chairman, president and CEO, Seminole Hard Rock Entertainment, who will deliver the opening keynote address. In recognition of 25 years of casinos in Mississippi, the topic of a core special session will be “25 Years of Mississippi Gaming: What the Past Tells Us About Today and Tomorrow.” Founding members of the industry will discuss Mississippi’s rise from one of the first regional markets to open up outside of Nevada and New Jersey, to its present leadership position in regional gaming nationally. Now generating close to $3 billion in annual gaming revenue, Mississippi stands as a successful and resilient example of how a competitive-tax, open market regulatory model responds to the demands of an increasingly complex leisure entertainment market. A follow-up session, “The Future of Gaming,” will offer a forward looking view from leaders in the present-day commercial, tribal and gaming technology markets.

Casino Journal will be doing its part as well to celebrate 25 years of gaming in Mississippi, creating a special section in its May issue devoted to the topic that will include a timeline, operators roundtable, suppliers forum, industry testimonials, a look at gaming numbers and an examination of what the next 25 years may hold for the region.

Of course, the conference program at Southern Gaming Summit will also delve into practical topics designed to help operators do better business in today’s world. With this in mind, the conference features a new track this year devoted to non-gaming hospitality, a growing source of revenue for gaming resorts throughout the region and country. A session that tackles this topic head-on is “Non-Gaming Strategies that Build Visitor Volume,” where speakers will address…“the fact that regional gaming markets are very often faced with gaming supply that is at or near the saturation point. Whenever new supply is added, existing operators argue that they mostly slice the existing pie different ways without adding to it. However, there is agreement that non-gaming investments that bring new visitors to gaming markets offer a better bang for the buck. The non-gaming events and attractions that build more gaming business for markets will be debated.”

Also of interest to me is the session titled “Bang for the Buck: The Impact of Non-Gaming Investments.”  Its outline: “Regional casinos looking to boost visitor counts and grow revenue have a wealth of non-gaming investments to ponder. But not all of these are created equal and each brings with it new claims on resources. This session will evaluate the ROI of specific non-gaming investments and also look at the larger question of how they enhance a property’s overall value proposition; be it adding parking, building a new hotel, upgrading rooms and/or other amenities—each has an established track record in gaming that all operators can learn from.”

Southern Gaming Summit is always an event well worth attending, as these sessions and events show. I hope to see you there.