Southern Gaming Summit features discussion about industry future

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Casino executives from around the country talked about the future of their industry at Thursday's final session of the Southern Gaming Summit.

Panel discussions on the closing day of the conference focused on financing and opportunities for future growth. There was also more discussion about the importance of adding non-gaming amenities to casino markets, including the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Analysts seem cautiously optimistic about the future, despite struggling revenue numbers in many areas.

"You need to stop looking at Biloxi and the gulf coast as a mature market and instead look at it as one that has never really fulfilled the great potential that still exists for it," said gaming analyst Frank Fantini.

He says Biloxi would do well to focus on its natural resources and that which is unique to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

"The advantages of weather, of a distinct culture, of heritage, a history. Things that nobody else can ever take away from you. The gulf coast and Biloxi will always have that heritage. It will always have that regional cuisine. It will always have Southern hospitality. Those are the things you have to build on here," he suggested.

Panelists noted the casino improvements now underway here.

"One challenge for new projects on the coast is just the wait and see. Let's make sure this market, it looks healthy, I think it. But let's see how Golden Nugget does. Or let's see how the market does when Hard Rock's new hotel happens. Both of those projects can actually help attract more investment," said Scott King with the Gulf Coast Business Council.

"Other non-gaming amenities. That is what you need to do. You need to make this destination market, truly a destination market. And hopefully there will be capital constraints to the extent that you won't have good money thrown at bad projects," said Christopher Jones with Telsey Advisory Group.

"Need to add amenities and be more than 'a box' and more rooms. But need to add amenities and things to make this market more exciting," said investment advisor Lawrence Katzkin.

Analyst Fantini says the Biloxi Boardwalk Casino project has potential. But the analyst was not optimistic about Gulfport's Rotate Black.

"No offense to Rotate Black, but I don't think anybody ever expected they were going to be in a position to get much financing on anything," said Fantini.

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