Minority Owners Could Hit Casino Jackpot

Laura Hasty owns The Ad Group in Biloxi. "Before gaming, I was looking at changing careers and moving to another area," she said.

But in 1995, Hasty landed the first of four casino accounts. And she turned those opportunities into a rewarding career.

"I think that the gaming industry has been very fair to us in that they've looked beyond gender," she said, "and looked at our talent and our capabilities."

But not every owner who could do business with Mississippi casinos has been that lucky. Just ask Stacey Perry, the owner of Mao Gaming. Perry has used an office at the Gulf Coast Business Technology Center to design table games for casinos all over America. But right now, the Biloxi business woman doesn't have a single game in a Mississippi casino.

"It's tough. It's very tough for us to get in," she said. "It tough to get that first appointment, because when you tell them you're based in Mississippi, they right away discount your abilities and possibly even your products."

Perry is a big supporter of a proposed regulation the gaming commission will introduce Thursday. The regulation encourages Mississippi casinos to buy products from more Mississippi vendors -- especially the state's minority vendors.

"It's very important to my company," she said. "And I suppose it's very important to other minority owned Mississippi based companies as well, because what it will do is level the playing field, the small companies to the big corporations."

Laura Hasty understood the importance of playing on a level playing field.

"Sometimes you feel because you're a woman, you're not taken seriously in the business world," she admitted.

That's not supposed to be an issue anymore, if the gaming commission orders its casinos to do business with more Mississippi vendors.