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Released February 12, 2003

By Christopher Mapp

HATTIESBURG - As an amateur aviator, John Gallaway has often watched the changing landscape of the world beneath him. As a professional businessman, Gallaway has also watched the changing landscape of the gaming industry.

During the Executive-on-Campus Lectures Series, sponsored by The University of Southern Mississippi's College of Business Administration Wednesday, the current president of Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. detailed the gaming industry's transition from a Mob-dominated cabal of small, illegal casinos in the 1950s to a smorgasbord of legitimate, corporate-owned entertainment destinations today.

"I'm a businessman with a hospitality background whose theory is that it's honorable to serve the people," said Gallaway, who entered the Las Vegas gaming industry in the late 1970s as legislators were trying to remove the last criminal vestiges from what they considered a jackpot of state tourism.

Sixteen years later, Gallaway became the president of Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. Using his "Isle Style" operating philosophy, he has grown the nine-year old company into the seventh largest casino in the industry and turned it into a billion-dollar revenue producer. The Isle of Capri got its name from a small, Prohibition-era casino on an island in the Mississippi Sound called the Isle of Caprice.

Gallaway said the secret to success in the gaming industry hinges on the "80-20 rule," as do most businesses. "Twenty percent of your customers do about 80 percent of your business," he said. "So we pay attention about whom those customers are. In this industry, where people might lose their money and go try their luck somewhere else, we're always in the business of re-selling our product to keep them coming back."

Using anecdotal examples from his own experiences in the industry, Gallaway explained how the gaming industry moved out from under mafia control in the '50s and '60s and eventually into corporate control in the '80s and '90s.

"It was an interesting time in the business as it started to become legitimized during the '80s," Gallaway said. Today, government regulations keep close reigns on the industry, which Gallaway said is still changing, even in the new millennium. Indian-owned casinos on reservations and increased competition have driven profit margins down. Despite the competition, Isle of Capri has become the No. 1 publicly traded corporation in Mississippi after the recent demise of WorldCom Inc.

Before joining Isle of Capri, Gallaway served as deputy managing director for Gaming for Sun International in Johannesburg, South Africa. From 1981-92, Gallaway served as president and general manager of the Tropworld Casino & Entertainment Resort in Atlantic City, and president and general manager of the Tropicana Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

A native New Yorker, Gallaway received his bachelor's degree in economics from Cornell University and an MBA from the Columbia University Graduate School of Business. He currently resides with his wife, Grace, in Gulfport.

Two more lecturers will participate in the series this semester. On March 27, Perry Parker, managing director for foreign exchange trading at Deutsche Bank in New York, will discuss "Foreign Exchange: From Theory to Practice." On April 16, George J. Newton, president and CEO of Burrus Investment Group Inc. of New Orleans will wrap up the series with a lecture called "Important Business Lessons not Learned at Southern Miss – or Harvard."

Seating for all lectures is limited. For more information call (601) 266-4659.


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM