Page 10 - Mississippi/Louisiana Gaming News - Fall, 2023
P. 10

Four inducted into Hall of Fame during celebration
By Lori Beth Susman
BILOXI — It was a night of celebration and recognition as the Mississippi Gaming & Hospitality Association inducted four industry leaders into the Mississippi Gaming Hall of Fame. On June 29, the gaming community joined together in honoring Chevis Swetman, the Engelstad Family Foundation, former state representative Bobby Moak and former Governor Haley Barbour.
“We celebrate the work of those early advocates, the work of those who grew gaming into such a strong industry here, and those who continue advancing the Mississippi gaming industry today,” said Larry Gregory, MGHA executive director.
Added Michael Sunderman, president of M2 Media and co-emcee of the event, “We come together to pay tribute to
the outstanding visionaries, pioneers and trailblazers who have shaped the gaming industry landscape. These remarkable individuals have not only
left an indelible mark on the industry, they’ve also played a pivotal role in the growth and prosperity of our great state. The Mississippi Gaming Hall of Fame serves as a testament to the unwavering dedication and unparalleled accomplishments of these exceptional people.”
While there was no theme for the evening, Hurricane Katrina took center stage as each of those inducted into the Hall of Fame reflected on the devastation wrought by the 2005 storm and the progress made in the weeks, months and years after. The inductees were also quick to praise their fellow recipients, as well, all of whom played a strong role in the Gulf Coast’s recovery.
Chevis Swetman
Industry Pioneer
“In the early days of gaming, many banks and businesses were pretty skeptical about doing business with
this industry. But, there was one man
in Biloxi who rolled the dice to assist
the casino industry,” Sunderman said about Chevis Swetman, president of The Peoples Bank, which has been serving the industry ever since its inception on the Gulf Coast and is one of the most successful community banks in the southeast United States.
A staunch community supporter, Swetman is chairman of the board for the popular Cruisin’ The Coast event, which has
an economic impact of more than $30 million on the Coast alone. A past chairman
of the
Gulf Coast Economic Development Council, Swetman also served on the Governor’s Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The steps taken
by the commission, particularly on the redevelopment of the Port of Gulfport, led to a remarkable economic recovery for casinos, hotels and other businesses on the Coast.
Upon accepting his award, Swetman spoke of the generosity of the Engelstad Family Foundation, including a donation of 120 wheelchairs to Coast hospitals in 2006; the work Moak did for the Gulf Coast while in state government; and Barbour’s determination and leadership following Katrina. “Without the leadership of Gov. Barbour and Bobby Moak, it would not
have happened that
fast,” Swetman said of
getting services and
help to rebuild areas
in need.
Engelstad Family Foundation Industry Influencer
The Engelstad Foundation was created in 2002
by Ralph and Betty Engelstad for the purpose of promoting medical research, improving the lives
of people living with
disabilities and creating new possibilities for high-risk individuals. Engelstad, who
 Hall of Fame inductee Chevis Swetman with his family, Katherine, Marcia and Tanner.
 first built Imperial Palace Las Vegas
in 1979, opened his second Imperial Palace Casino in Biloxi in 1997, and maintained ownership until the property, now known as IP Casino Resort Spa, was purchased by Boyd Gaming in 2011.
Accepting the Engelstad Family Foundation award was Jeff Cooper, chief financial officer and trustee for the foundation, which continues to serve
the Gulf Coast area. “We were coming down here almost weekly for three years following Katrina,” Cooper said, “and we love the Coast. I believe the Engelstad family and their trust, which became
the foundation, was a catalyst for the recovery following Katrina.”
Within months after Katrina, Engelstad put more
than $100 million of capital expenditures into the area, along with $300 million in payroll and operating expenses within
the first year. “The multiplier effect, what that did for the local economy, is a tribute to the Engelstad family,” Cooper said.
Bobby Moak Industry Regulatory/ Government Official
Attorney Bobby Moak, a former 32- year member of the Mississippi House
of Representatives, was elected to the
Jeff Cooper

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