Holloway: Gaming leaders waiting for proof that economy has improved

Mayor A.J. Holloway says the message he was hearing this week from the huge G2E gaming convention in Las Vegas was consistent, regardless of which operator he met with: “Their business was down at least 10 percent, more in some cases, and the customers they did have were spending far less money.”

The mayor, who has been invited frequently to participate in panel discussions at the convention, said he was able to speak to at least a half-dozen industry leaders, including American Gaming Association President Frank Fahrenkopf Jr.; legendary industry insider Jack Binion; and leaders from a half-dozen companies, including MGM Mirage, owners of the Beau Rivage and 15 other gaming properties; and Boyd Gaming, which operates 16 casino resorts including properties in Nevada, New Jersey, Louisiana, Indiana, Illinois, and Mississippi (Sam’s Town in Tunica).

G2E, an acronym for Global Gaming Exposition, is held each November in Las Vegas and is billed as the industry’s premier venue for the discussion of trends, forecasts and opportunities. Attendance was 30,000 in 2007, about 26,000 last year, and was expected to be down again this year.

“The other thing that I was hearing is that the economic challenges the industry faces are far from over,” Holloway said. “Certainly, operators are seeing encouraging signs, but some say that it may be another three to four years before the industry returns to where it was before the 2008 economic collapse.”

Holloway said his message to those he spoke with was that Biloxi “is open for business, we are interested in growth, and when the economy does turn around we’ll have millions of dollars in new infrastructure in place, new public facilities, and the table will be set for economic growth.”

Said the mayor: “My goal was to remind them that we’re here, that we’re pro-growth, and that we’ll be ready when things turn around.”