Southern Gaming Summit 2018 highlighted by Mississippi Gaming Hall of Fame induction

9 May 2018

(PRESS RELEASE) -- The Southern Gaming Summit (SGS) returned with a new vigor and enthusiasm last week, and featured the inaugural class of the Mississippi Gaming Hall of Fame. The conference was held for the first time under the sole ownership of the Mississippi Gaming & Hospitality Association (MGHA), which bought out its former partner following last year’s SGS. The SGS was produced by Casino Connection International, the parent company of Global Gaming Business (GGB) magazine.

“The MGHA is proud to present the Southern Gaming Summit each year, and this year’s event was particularly meaningful to us,” said Larry Gregory, the executive director of the MGHA. “Since we own the show now, we are directly responsible for its content, which we designed to benefit the industry and highlight all the opportunities available to both commercial and tribal casinos in our region.”

In a transition year, the SGS was held at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, a smaller venue that encouraged networking and interaction between attendees, speakers and exhibitors.

“We’re very pleased with the results,” said Gregory. “Our exhibitors got to meet their customers in a very relaxed setting, and our attendees were able to easily mingle with speakers, creating a unique and powerful networking opportunity.”

The induction into the Mississippi Gaming Hall of Fame Gala was held on the final night. With Mississippi gaming approaching its fourth decade, the creation of the Hall was a natural evolution, says Gregory.

“We had so many deserving nominees that it was very difficult to narrow down the recipients,” he says. “But with the votes of our 28 member casinos, the honorees were all very deserving and appropriate. And of course we have a long list for consideration in the future."

The SGS conference kicked off with a welcome reception sponsored by VizExplorer and Rymax Marketing. Revelers took over the pool area at the Golden Nugget and a lavish spread was provided by General Manager Chett Harrison and his staff.

The next morning, a keynote speech by American Gaming Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman, who delivered his refined message surrounding the legalization of sports betting in the U.S. Freeman contended that no matter what the Supreme Court decides, the issue has momentum because PASPA has failed so miserably. He also said that partnerships are the key to success for sports betting, something DFS failed to recognize in its U.S. launch several years ago.

“We’re working with the leagues to see if there’s a deal to be had. I encourage you to look at it through that lens as well,” he said.

The highlight of the event was the induction of the first class of the Mississippi Gaming Hall of Fame. Attended by more than 500 people, they came to honor the pioneers in the Mississippi industry:
• Lyle Berman, co-founder of Grand Casinos, who not only played a role in the development of Mississippi gaming but also played a major role in the development of Indian gaming in Minnesota. Berman had a previous commitment so his award was accepted by longtime executive and now the general manager of the Silver Slipper in Mississippi, John Ferrucci.
• Bernie Goldstein, founder of the Isle of Capri Casinos (named for a small island off the coast of Biloxi), who opened the first casino riverboat on the Gulf Coast. Goldstein died in 2009, and his award was accepted by his son, Robert.
• William S. Boyd, executive chairman of Boyd Gaming, who came east from Las Vegas to develop a casino named after his father—Sam’s Town, in Tunica—and who also helped to develop Indian gaming in Mississippi.
• Tommy Gollott, then and now a member of the Mississippi state Senate from Harrison County, who was instrumental in writing and promoting the legislation that approved casino gaming in the state, especially the dockside element.
• Jack Binion, who, like Boyd, is the son of a gaming legend, who recognized the potential for gaming in the south, and whose Horseshoe casino in Tunica quickly became the most successful casino in the state.
• Rick Carter and Terry Green, two local developers who figured out how to make the most of the new industry, opened the Copa casino in a converted cruise ship in the early 1990s, and who now own the Island View Casino Resort.

The important organization Global Gaming Women organized the lunch this year, sponsored by Sportradar, featuring a presentation from Phyliss Anderson, the first female chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. Anderson compared the progress of women in gaming to the rise of the #MeToo movement, which has exposed some very high-profile officials.

“The women’s movement easily parallels the efforts under way in Indian country,” Anderson said. “We seek voices to be heard, and we only want justice, representation and fairness. As a female in leadership, and a mother and grandmother to girls, I tell you that I celebrate and cheer these women on as they speak out.”

Anderson gave a history of her tribe, dating back more than a century, when it refused to participate in the disastrous “Trail of Tears” that doomed many Choctaws to death and took others to Oklahoma. She credited her mentor, Chief Philip Martin, who transformed the tribe for 32 years before being removed in 2007. She drew chuckles when she recalled a mantra that Martin frequently repeated.

“Chief Martin often said, ‘If you want to get something done, get a woman on it.’”

Other seminar sessions included such diverse topics as sports betting, tribal gaming, data analytics, skills games and the slot floor, possible gaming legalization in Georgia, and much more.

“We’d like to thank our exhibitors, sponsors and attendees, who all played critical roles in making the SGS 2018 a big success,” said Justin Carter, the chairman of the MGHA, and the general manager of the Penn National casinos in Tunica, Mississippi—Hollywood Casino Tunica, Resorts Casino Tunica and 1st Jackpot Casino Tunica. “We’re looking forward to building Southern Gaming Summit into the premier gaming conference for regional casinos in the United States.”

Gregory said the 2018 Southern Gaming Summit was the “North Star” for the future of gaming in the region.

“This year’s event was particularly meaningful,” he said. “Our show was for the industry by the industry. Ask the many attendees and they will repeat positive comments about our new show and its fresh approach. The induction of the first class of MS Gaming Hall of Fame was a monumental and memorable walk through the history of gaming in our state. We look forward next year to build on the traction we gained from our success.”

Related Links
Mississippi Online Gambling
Southern Gaming Summit 2018
American Gaming Association
Mississippi Gaming & Hospitality Association
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