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Chris Sieroty

Gaming conference attendees discusses Eadington's legacy

30 May 2013

LAS VEGAS -- A graduate of a unique executive development program at the University of Nevada, Reno turned executive with Marina Bay Sands in Singapore on Wednesday said the late economist Bill Eadington had a profound effect on his students and others in the industry during his 40-year career.

Eadington, who was best-known as the director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling & Commercial Gaming at the UNR, died in February, leaving behind a rich academic legacy and passion for the study of gambling.

“He opened my mind to so many different aspects of the (gaming) industry,” Andrew MacDonald, executive vice president of casino at Marina Bay Sands, said during a panel discussion at the 15th International Conference on Gambling and Risk Taking at Caesars Palace.

Two of Eadington’s biggest passions were the gambling conference, which he founded in 1974, and the Executive Development Program that brings executives to Lake Tahoe annually for leadership training. More than 1,000 gaming industry executives have participated in the program.

MacDonald, a former gaming regulator and casino executive in Australia, turned down a $10,000 bonus in the early 1990s and instead asked his employer, Adelaide Casino, to send him to Eadington’s development program in Northern Nevada.

The weeklong program has also been described as a “boot camp” for gaming industry executives. Graduates of this program include MacDonald, former Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairman Mark Lipparelli and Bo Bernhard, executive director of the International Gaming Institute at UNLV.

Bernhard said the conference will continue to be held every three years. Las Vegas has hosted the four-day event five times previously.

Bernhard also assured those attending the panel discussion that the executive development program, sponsored by UNR’s College of Business, “will live on.” MacDonald participated in a panel Wednesday that focused on Eadington’s impact on the gaming business along with Eugene Christiansen, chairman of Christiansen Capital Advisors LLC. The 90-minute discussion and remembrance was titled “The Eadington Papers: Research Impacts on the Modern Gaming Business.”

Christiansen said the most far-reaching impact Eadington had was on the quality of management in this industry. In 1974, when the first conference was held, casino management came up through the ranks. He credited Eadington, a former economist and mathematician, with creating a field of study of the gaming industry.

“When Bill started at (UNR), it was regarded with ambivalence by the industry,” Christiansen said. “Phil Satre realized that Bill was good for the industry and it broke ground in the evolution of an industry.”

Satre was CEO of the former Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., a Las Vegas-gaming company now known as Caesars Entertainment Corp.

Christensen said when Eadington started the current conference, the gaming map of the U.S. looked much different, with Nevada the only state with legalized casino gambling. He said other states operated lotteries and pari-mutuel betting.

The map expanded in 1978 to include New Jersey. By 2013, 43 states have commercial casinos, tribal casino, racetracks, card rooms or electronic gaming devices. Total consumer spending at casinos reached $37.34 billion in 2012.

“This map is very different today,” Christensen said. “The map today was not created by Bill, but by removing the mystery around gambling, he made it possible for the industry and states to take a good look at each other.”

He also credited Eadington with using this conference to tackle the topic of compulsive gambling in a serious manner.

“It’s the single most important issue,” Christensen said, “We know more about it, thanks to Bill.”