Casino industry executives see change on the horizon

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - From across the country, they have come by the hundreds to the 20th annual Southern Gaming Summit in Biloxi. And there's one goal in mind: Return to the profitable days of 10 years ago. The gaming industry was booming. Not so anymore. The recession took its toll, but so did increased competition from other states.

Jon Lucas works with Hard Rock in Cleveland.

"So many states are now looking at it and saying, 'Hey, why should we let the money go outside our borders? Let's keep it inside.' And I think that's caused some of that. But what it's caused everybody to do is to re-think how they're going to do business," Lucas said.

Here's a telling statistic. Five years ago, 50 percent of gaming industry revenue came from table games and slots. Now it's less than one third, which means gaming customers are looking for something more.

Gary Loveman is the CEO of Caesars Entertainment.

"We have to encompass the entire value chain with online and mobile delivery services. And we need new distribution around the country so that customers interested in our business can be identified and made loyal so they will come and see us in places like this," Loveman said.

A turnaround may be on the horizon, according to Hollywood Casino General Manager Chett Harrison.

"We started out the first part of the year, January and February, a little tough. But we saw a tremendous improvement in March. And I think the industry, and every industry, is in on the recovery right now," Harrison said.

Also, more eyes are looking this way for opportunity. Larry Gregory is the President of the Mississippi Casino Operators Association.

"I see developers coming into this city, Biloxi, also Gulfport, looking at the Gulf Coast. That is a clear sign that we're coming out of the recession. I think we're going to see new development over the next few years," Gregory said.

Those next few years could make all the difference for a changing industry.

The gaming summit will continue through Thursday.

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