In seemingly another lifetime, I met Bill Eadington very early in my gaming career. Over the years, I was always in awe at the depth of his knowledge and it was clear why he has always been held in such high regard by everyone in the gaming industry. Officially, he was Professor of Economics and Director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada, Reno, but he was so much more.
I hadn’t talked with Bill in several years, but I can hear his voice as if it was yesterday. I would contact him from time to time as a journalist, relying on his expertise for one story or another. I recruited him as a speaker for a conference or two – he was in great demand but always tried to be accommodating. And sometimes I just needed his help to find a specialist in another part of the world as he seemed to have an endless supply of connections around the globe. Without fail, he was eager to help and generous with his time.
Some of his opinions on racetrack gaming were not appreciated by many in the racing industry. He would argue that as tracks became more dependent on slot machines or other gaming, racing interests were failing to address the underlying cause of racing’s decline as a sport. He also believed that at some point, governments and even operators would tire of subsidizing a sport that couldn’t stand on its own. And guess what – that’s exactly what has happened in Ontario as the government abruptly decided to end the racetrack slot program. Some of the racetrack casinos in New York may be in jeopardy depending on how new casino legislation develops. Other states have threatened to divert gaming funds currently allocated to the racing industry.
As much as I love horse racing, I tended to agree with him that gaming dollars have blinded many in the industry who don’t seem to care if only 500 people watch a live race as long as thousands pass through the casino. The big racing events are still capable of drawing crowds, but that’s due to a special magic that simply doesn’t exist on a cold winter day at Aqueduct, and it likely never will again. There is simply a disconnect here and I don’t have the answer. I’m not sure Bill did either, but he provided ample warnings.
Thanks for the memories Bill. Rest in peace knowing that your legacy will live on.