More than two dozen gaming industry leaders started their annual Southern Gaming Summit at the Bridges Golf Course. They warmed up at the range, said hi to old friends, met business associates and played a round of golf.
Louisiana Gaming Executive Russell Laurent said he played in the pre-conference golf tournament, "just have a lot of fun. Just to get away from the office. Enjoy ourselves. Play some golf. Maybe get to shoot some dice later on."
Slot machine vendor Dan Federhofer said the tournament was "a time to get out, relax, enjoy yourself." When the real conference work begins Wednesday, the St. Louis businessman will be stuck inside at in an expo hall. "Then you've got to sit in meetings the rest of the week," he said.
Two days of meetings will highlight the latest trends in the gaming industry. The annual summit gives coast casinos a chance to show off the amenities they've nurtured the past nine years. According to Pete Burns, "It's been an amazing transformation."
Burns ran the Biloxi Belle before that casino ran into bankruptcy problems and closed. Now he's up in Tunica County. He comes to the Southern Gaming Summit every year for golf, and shrimp. "I wish I was back. It's fantastic," Burns said. "There really isn't anything that Atlantic City or Las Vegas has to offer than the coast doesn't have to offer at this point."
That sort of high praise is why casinos roll out the red carpet for the leaders of their industry. The Gulf Coast Gaming Association sponsors the summit. Association president Duncan McKenzie said, "I think we're really going to show the rest of the gaming industry how far gaming has come on the gulf coast."
The gaming summit is Wednesday and Thursday. Before it's over, many of the industry executives are hoping to get in at least one more round of golf.
Governor Musgrove's keynote address to Southern Gaming Summit delegates is Wednesday.