Results of the 2015 Annual Southern Gaming Summit

2015 Southern Gaming SummitGambling is big business in the USA, especially in Mississippi. The Delta saw tough times after mechanization of the agricultural industry in the late 20th century. Whole families that had depended for generations on jobs working in the fields had nowhere to turn. Towns, which once relied on the tax dollars spent by these workers for goods and services, now had to provide for these unfortunate residents as they sat on the unemployment rolls. What could be done?

Enter 2015, a lot is changing very quickly. Today there are casinos sitting right in the same places where there were once cotton fields. Moreover, the folks who had to settle for agricultural jobs that could be quite physically demanding can look forward to working inside on the nice, clean and aesthetically pleasing casino floors. Quite a difference.

Things went well for a while in the gambling industry as a whole. Small towns, such as Tunica, welcomed tourists eager to try out the novelty of gambling openly in the South. The top brands, such as Harrah’s, Fitzgeralds and Boyd, came along to open up shop. There was no need to travel to Las Vegas or Reno when you had all the lights and pizzazz right there.

Over the last few years, things have slowed down in Tunica, and other Mississippi gambling towns. There are various factors that came into play here. One, the Recession lasted longer in the South than most people thought possible. Unemployed people have little disposable cash to plop down on the poker table.

Also, the novelty of gambling has worn off a bit. It could be the gaming is hitting a near saturation point in the South. Various states, North Carolina and Louisiana, for example, offer legalized gambling. Even Georgia had video slot machines for a while, but they are currently pulled under review. Everyone is offering some kind of gaming. This year, casino operators met again from May 5-7 at the 2015 Annual Southern Gaming Summit in Biloxi, Mississippi to hash these hard topics and more.

These industry leaders laid out plans to make Mississippi casinos more attractive to a larger customer base, including younger people.

One area of concern for Mississippi casino operators is the widespread image of their establishments as places where the retired go for entertainment. Though casinos obviously appreciate the dollars spent over the years by seniors, they also want to encourage millennials to take up gambling. How to best go about doing so was a primary focus at the Gaming Summit this year.

Making their machines more attractive to the younger generation will take work, Summit participants conceded. Interactive gaming is one way. There needs to be more opportunities for the user to make decisions that alter the outcome of the game, as the action moves along.

Young people, who have grown up playing video games, are not used to sitting back and watching the lights go off alone. They instead want to have their hands on the joystick being intricately involved in the outcome. Gambling insiders will have to work with game designers to create these new models.

Casino bosses also discussed proposals to increase the number of skill-based games available in their venues. Millennials again want to be involved directly in the play. They desire games that take their knowledge, training and education into account. Games seemingly based totally on chance, though entertaining, leave a bit to be desired in the minds of some. To this end, Summit attendees hope to introduce more games that will prove intellectually challenging for these types.

Last, given the popularity of sports among both men and women of the millennial age, the casino and gaming executives saw it as a necessary topic for their convention. They seem to agree that e-sports tournaments would be a good idea. Also, they might want to focus Southern gambling operations more so on sports betting in general, heading away from the bingo and slot machine saturated game-space.

Tom Hoskens, a professional casino designer, attended the Gaming Summit. He believes it is important to consider the look of gambling houses, as well. The young desire lots of lights and sounds. As proficient multi-taskers, they want to do various things at one time. It would be a productive move to transform casinos in a way to take advantage of these characteristics.

It is important to the lives of the almost 2 million casino workers nationally that leaders come up with an appropriate vision to capture the patronage of the millennials. If all goes according to the plan of those at the 2015 Southern Gaming Summit, they will do just that.

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Jared Bates

I have been working in, and with different casinos for over twenty years, and as such I have seen many things happen to gambling online and offline. From Vegas to Atlantic City, and small places in between, my passion lies with games where I can win money.

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