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December 9, 2008
By Skyler Dillon
His name is everywhere lately. For opinions on the closing of Fitzgerald's in downtown Reno to the potential opening of a new Las Vegas casino, reporters have been turning to the expert in the field: Bill Eadington.
After reviewing his 40 years of research in economics and the gaming industry, it isn't hard to see why. A professor of economics and the University of Nevada, Reno’s Satre Chair of Gaming Studies, Eadington heads the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming on the Nevada campus. He also is the editor or co-editor of a variety of gaming publications and has been a visiting professor at Harvard Medical School as well as an academic visitor to the London School of Economics. On Dec. 10, the University of Macau will recognize his contributions to the gaming community as well as to his students by conferring on Eadington the title of Doctor of Business Administration honoris causa.
"I'm very grateful for the award. It's a big honor," Eadington says. He is travelling to Macau to receive the honorary doctorate, one of nearly a dozen trips Eadington has made to the area in his efforts to help establish a gaming research program in the University of Macau's College of Business.
Macau, like Hong Kong one of China’s two special administrative regions, is one place cashing in on the gaming industry, which generates more than $90 billion each year in the United States alone. Eadington has advised governments and private organizations as far away as South Africa, China and Slovenia on issues related to gaming, but notes that Nevada is a unique figure in the industry.
"Nevada is the founder of modern corporate gambling, and Las Vegas is a very interesting icon,” he says. “It's metamorphosed from a city with gambling joints to a major tourist destination."
That dynamic is part of the reason why Eadington has been with the University of Nevada, Reno since 1969. He has watched the Nevada gaming industry grow from a collection of little-educated employees working their way up through casinos into an “increasingly MBA-driven industry," he notes.
“For example, compare Benny Binion, who ran the Horseshoe in Vegas [in the 1950s], to Gary Loveman,” Eadington says. “Binion was a ne’er-do-well out of Dallas who came to Nevada because he had to get out of town, while [Loveman] is the current CEO of Harrah’s and a former Harvard marketing professor.”
The change in Nevada gaming is reflected by the transformation of gaming research that Eadington has led throughout his career. He says he has seen commercial gambling evolve from "what was described as a pariah industry into a legitimate academic field."
The University’s establishment of a gaming minor program in 1994 is evidence of that transition. Eadington enjoys the opportunity to share his 40-year perspective with students in his Business Public Policy and Economics of Gaming/Gambling classes.
“It’s interesting and fun to communicate with the students,” he says, “especially the older ones. They’re more serious, more focused, more enjoyable to teach.”
Eadington’s fellow honorees at the University of Macau event. are Li Zhaoxing, Henrique Senna Fernandes and Alfred Wong.