Eadington, world-renowned gaming economist, dies at 67

Long-time professor shared a passion for teaching and industry outreach

2/12/2013 - By: Brandon Stewart
Professor Bill Eadington Bill Eadington was founder of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming and created the University’s International Conference on Gambling and Risk Taking, which was first held in 1974. Photo by Theresa Danna-Douglas.

Bill Eadington, one of the University of Nevada, Reno's longest serving and most prolific professors, died Monday at his home in Crystal Bay, Nev. He was 67.

Eadington's career at the University began in 1969. Over the next 44 years, he became the nation's preeminent academic voice and developed a mountainous amount of scholarship and scholarly inquiry regarding the commercial gaming industry.

He was founder of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming and created the University's International Conference on Gambling and Risk Taking, which was first held in 1974.

Said College of Business Dean Greg Mosier: "Bill was a great colleague to all of us in the College of Business. He was absolutely the best scholar in the world in his field of the economics and regulation of gaming. We will all remember him for his intellect, contributions to the University of Nevada, Reno and civility and devotion to his family and friends."

Remembering Bill

My department, my university, and my state have all suffered a great loss. Bill Eadington was a great professor, a respected colleague, and a good person. Our hearts go out to his family and his many close friends.

He was an incredibly busy person who would fly across the world to advise governments wanting to know more about commercial gaming, its regulation, opportunities and consequences. If it's Monday, we would joke, it must be Macau. Bill built a reputation as an independent and objective scholar studying an industry that was not always in high repute when he began his research. But he looked at it like an economist, and focused on the facts.

But Bill was also a dedicated teacher who would catch the flight back in time for his classes, and his many of his students later became lifelong friends. Even these last two semesters, with cancer eating away at him, Bill wanted to keep teaching.  The last couple of months he needed somebody to bring a chair since it was too hard to stand for long, but he maintained his commitment to his students.  In December, while in the hospital, he finished grading finals and got his grades turned in on time.

When I was brand new to Reno, Bill took me under his wing made sure I did not feel alone.  He invited me to his home at Crystal Bay, and I relearned how to waterski.  He introduced me to people who would become my close friends. He and his wife, Margaret, also took me snow skiing, both downhill and cross-country. As a senior colleague, he stood up for me in other ways too.

Bill Eadington cannot ever be replaced. He was one-of-a-kind, and we will miss him dearly.

Ellion Parker, Chair
Department of Economics

Added University President Marc Johnson: "Bill Eadington carried with him an amazing array of talents to his work. He was a wonderful scholar who brought a strong, probing academic perspective to one of our state's most influential industries. He was so well respected in academic and industry circles that whenever he spoke, in Nevada and all across the country, people listened very carefully to what he had to say. His devotion to his work and to this University was quite extraordinary. We will greatly miss his presence."

Born in Southern California, Eadington quickly earned three degrees in economics and landed his first teaching job at the University of Nevada, Reno. He developed a love of teaching that would last a lifetime.

One of his closest friends, Richard Schuetz, was also one of his first students. As an 18-year-old, Schuetz took classes from a 23-year-old Eadington in Ross Hall. Describing him as a "thin, blond math whiz kid," Schuetz fondly remembers trying to keep up with his energetic professor.

"He set his book and folder down on the front table and he'd just go to town," said Schuetz, a longtime gaming executive and consultant. "He would burn through chalk at an incredible rate. I'm sure people in the front rows suffered something from all the chalk dust."

Eadington's teaching was driven by his curiosity for his subject. After a late night as a card dealer at Harrah's, Schuetz remembers Eadington wandering through the casino in the early morning hours trying to glean more about how the industry functioned.

"If things were slow, he would stop by my table and start asking questions about how things worked," Schuetz recalled.

That penchant for learning was not limited to economics and gaming. Sitting in a sunny spot of his home in Crystal Bay, Nev., Eadington would read volumes and volumes of books, everything from Civil War biographies to politics to complex statistics issues. He then wove that wealth of knowledge into his lectures to undergraduate and graduate students.

Professionally, Eadington earned great respect as a gaming expert and advisor to the industry. Always the consummate professional, Eadington would go out of his way for anyone asking his opinion.

"It could be the Wall Street Journal or the student newspaper-- he would do whatever he could to respond quickly and get it right," Schuetz said. "He never had an air of superiority."

That industry respect led to his induction into the American Gaming Association's Hall of Fame in November 2011, the highest honor accorded by the gaming industry, with some previous inductees including Phil Satre, Steve Wynn, William Harrah and Bill Pennington.

At that time, Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr., president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, said, "We owe Dr. Eadington much of the credit for our current understanding of the economic and social impacts of commercial gaming."

In July 2012, Eadington was recognized by The National Council on Problem Gambling for his lifetime of work addressing problem gambling.

In choosing Eadington to receive the Goldman Lifetime Award for Advocacy at the national conference in Milwaukee, Wis., the Council said, "In the field devoted to the academic study of gambling and gaming industries, he is the founding giant and the internationally respected leader. Bill served on the NCPG Board of Directors for 30 years, including as President in 2008, and is a longtime advocate for responsible gaming."

The Council only bestowed its Lifetime Awards "in exceptional times and circumstances, to individuals who exemplify at least 20 years of service on behalf of those affected by problem gambling."

In a 2008 interview, Eadington said he couldn't have found a more dynamic time and a more interesting industry to study during his more than four-decade-long career at the University.

"Nevada is the founder of modern corporate gambling, and Las Vegas is a very interesting icon," he said. "It's metamorphosed from a city with gambling joints to a major tourist destination."

He said he had 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."

"For example, compare Benny Binion, who ran the Horseshoe in Vegas [in the 1950s], to Gary Loveman," Eadington said. "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."

Eadington added that he had 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 was evidence of that transition. Eadington said he truly enjoyed the opportunity to share his decades-long 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 said. "Especially the older ones. They're more serious, more focused, more enjoyable to teach."

Eadington wrote extensively on issues relating to the economic and social impacts of the industry. He authored several books, including "The Downside: Problem and Pathological Gambling" and "Gambling: Public Policies and the Social Sciences."

Eadington served as the organizer of the University's ongoing triennial International Conferences on Gambling and Risk Taking, and was founder and co-moderator of the annual Executive Development Program for Senior Level Casino Executives.

In 1990, he was awarded a Foundation Professorship at the University, and since 2004, he had held the Philip G. Satre Chair of Gaming Studies at the University.

Eadington earned his bachelor's degree in mathematics from Santa Clara University and was awarded his Ph.D. in economics from Claremont University.

He is survived by his wife, Margaret, son Michael, daughter and son-in-law Diana and Darren Reed, and three grandchildren.


Mostly Cloudy
82°
Currently