The Mississippi Gaming and Hospitality Association (“MGHA”) hosted the Southern Gaming Summit (“SGS”) on May 2 and May 3 in Biloxi Mississippi. The conference featured AGA president Geoff Freeman giving the keynote address. Mr. Freeman primarily addressed sports betting issues with the anticipated release of the Supreme Court opinion in the next 45 days. He noted that the average age of a sports wagering customer is 32 years old, a customer demographic that existing brick and mortar casinos find extremely attractive.  Mr. Freeman touched upon various issues including his belief that any state legislation enacted should not impose high taxes or integrity fees.  He also expressed his opinion that mobile wagering will go hand-in-hand with the sports betting and cautioned against legislation that limits such wagering only within the casino walls. He noted that higher taxes and limitations on mobile wagering will only play into the hands of the existing illegal sports wagering market.  He opined that the casino industry should attempt to partner with the legislators and other industry players, similar to the industry's approach to improving its AML compliance several years ago.

The SGS also hosted a President's Forum with Justin Carter, General Manager of Hollywood Casino Tunica, Resorts Casino Tunica and 1st Jackpot Casino Tunica, Chett Harrison, General Manager of the Golden Nugget, Duncan McKenzie General Manager of the IP Casino Resort and Dan Real, Regional President--South of Caesars Entertainment.  The panel discussed the state of their respective markets and echoed Mr. Freeman's comments about partnerships in that the overall market is large enough for everyone to experience success if casino properties partner with each other and regional Chambers of Commerce and attractions.  They noted that the key is to make sure they grow the number of customers that are coming to their venues.  They all agreed that the future for their markets are to provide new non-gaming activities whether directly or through other local tourism developments, to further attract customers.

The panel also discussed sports wagering and emphasized that while the revenue impact directly from the sports wagering may not be exceedingly large, they all envision incorporating it to the extent their respective legislatures authorize the betting.

During the conference, Roger Gros, Publisher of Global Gaming Business Magazine,  told a local television station WXXV 25, “Each state will decide whether they want it in their state. I am sure Mississippi will decide they want it to be legalized. So, hopefully, we will see sports betting maybe by the Super Bowl next year.”

Similarly, Larry Gregory, the MGHA Executive Director stated, “Everybody knows I think within a month, the Supreme Court will rule and Mississippi is ready to go when that decision comes.”

Mr. Gros further stated, “It brings excitement to the casinos. It brings people to the casinos. In Las Vegas, when it’s the Super Bowl or March Madness, there’s thousands and thousands of people that come in and jam the sports books because it’s just an exciting place to be.”

“That’s what we want. Visitors are going to stay here at the casinos. They are going to eat and most likely gamble when they are sports betting,” added Gregory.

SGS also offered a variety of breakout sessions on market topics and featured Phyllis J. Anderson, Tribal Chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians as the Global Gaming Women keynote speaker at the luncheon.

The Summit concluded with the Mississippi Gaming Hall of Fame Gala, honoring an inaugural class of Lyle Berman, co-founder of Grand Casinos, Bernard Goldstein, founder of Isle of Capri Casinos, William S. Boyd, Executive Chairman of Boyd Gaming, Tommy Gollett, senator of the Mississippi State Senate District 50 - Harrison, Jack Binion, founder of Horseshoe Gaming Corporation, and Rick Carter and Terry Green, co-founders of Island View Casino Resort.


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