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Gaming Summit returns to Miss. Gulf Coast

The Southern Gaming Summit returns to Biloxi this week for the first time since Hurricane Katrina pummeled the Gulf Coast.

The 14th annual gathering will be the largest ever, with some first-time attendees from companies that don’t have a presence in the state, said Beverly Martin, executive director of the Mississippi Casino Operators Association.

“Based on registration, we’re getting pretty much every major casino company to come to the summit,” Martin said. “That includes existing as well as potential developers. We have companies looking that would not consider us before Katrina. I feel like they’re coming to check us out, which is good.”

More than 2,000 have registered for the conference and more than 400 vendors have booked booths in the exhibition area.

Last year’s summit was the largest to date, with 318 exhibitors and more than 1,900 in attendance. The 2006 conference was held in Tunica in the northwest corner of the state.

Mississippi limits its state-licensed casinos to areas along the Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast. The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians also operates two casinos in central Mississippi’s Neshoba County, but those are not regulated by the state.

Katrina blew ashore on Aug. 29, 2005, and destroyed or heavily damaged the dozen casinos in coastal Harrison and Hancock counties.

Sessions for the 2007 Southern Gaming Summit start Wednesday with experts in casino marketing, law procedures and other issues. Gov. Haley Barbour will give the keynote speech Thursday.

On the Net:

Southern Gaming Summit: http://www.sgsummit.com