The Mississippi Gaming industry is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and we’ll be taking stock of both the past and the future at this month’s Southern Gaming Summit in Biloxi. Along those lines, there are few sessions to which I’d like to call your attention:

Opening Keynote—This will be delivered by Jim Allen, CEO of Seminole Gaming and chairman of Hard Rock International. Allen’s journey in gaming started as a line cook at Bally’s Park Place in the early days of Atlantic City. He was part of the casino’s first Upward Mobility training class and was part of the team that developed a first-of-its kind system to analyze the profitability of a food and beverage operation based on the actual cost of its menu mix. This was the early 1980s and, by the end of the decade, Allen was part of the senior management team at Trump Organization, whose accomplishments included making Atlantic City the boxing capital of the world, hosting 20 high-profile bouts including the Tyson-Spinks championship fight. A little over 10 years later, after high-level jobs at Hemmeter Enterprises and Sun International, where he worked alongside Sol Kerzner, Allen was named CEO of Seminole Gaming, where he played a key role in the 2006 acquisition of Hard Rock International. Given his professional journey, it’s no surprise that Allen has a deep understanding of our business and the directions it might consider pursuing going forward.

Global Gaming Women Session—“Notes From the Lean-In Circle,” a follow-up session from the annual Southern Gaming Summit Global Gaming Women Luncheon, will enable attendees to build upon lessons learned from their colleagues during the luncheon’s Lean-In Circle breakout discussions, which will focus on how to negotiate the complex landscape of career building for women in gaming. The GGW Group has assembled an incredible group of moderators for the luncheon, including Holly Gagnon, CEO, Chumash Casino Resort, who will be moderating this follow-up session as well.

“Non-Gaming Strategies That Build Visitor Volume”—If you talk to the casino operators in Gulfport and Biloxi, most will say that, at 12 casinos, there’s already enough gaming in the area. Not surprising because when’s the last time you asked a casino operator if he or she would like more competition and “yes” was the answer? Still, the focus on development in the region over the past 25 years has understandably been gaming-centric, and there is no shortage of ideas about how to bring new visitors in. You can hear all about it from Renée Areng, CDME, executive director, Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast; Jonathan Jones, senior vice president and general manager, Harrah’s Gulf Coast; Scott King, vice president of marketing and resort operations, Golden Nugget Casino; and Tom Hoskens, AIA, Cuningham Group Architecture.

“Tribal Gaming Growth Strategies”—Speaking of growth, tribal gaming operators in the south and south central portion of the country are major players in the region. In this session, Traci McCarty will lead a panel composed of Daniel P. Boudreaux, MBA, executive vice president and CFO, Choctaw Resort Development Enterprise; Alan P. Meister, Ph.D., principal economist, Nathan Associates, Inc. (who will kick things off with an update on the current economic state of Indian gaming); Sheila Morago, executive director, Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association; and Timothy Ramer, property manager, Wind Creek Hotel and Casino. It’s an incredible opportunity to hear how tribes across a broad geographic spectrum are diversifying their asset base to confront maturing gaming markets, and managing the challenge of how to keep their nations’ economies strong for future generations.

“Pioneers of Riverboat Gaming: What the Past Tells Us About Today and Tomorrow”—This one’s going to be a celebration of sorts, and the Mississippi gaming industry has earned it. As Mississippi completes its first quarter century of gaming in 2017, the state’s jurisdictional model has propelled it to a leadership position in regional gaming nationally. In this unique session, you will hear reflections on key moments in the development of Mississippi gaming from some of its pioneers, whose vision helped get it all started (and we are very grateful for their participation): Lyle Berman, president, Berman Consulting Corp.; Jack Binion, founder, Horseshoe Gaming Corporation; Tommy A. Gollott, Mississippi State Senate, District 50—Harrison; and Timothy M. Hinkley, former president, Isle of Capri Casinos. Lee Dillard, AGM, vice president finance, Caesars Entertainment Corporation, will lead the discussion.

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