Last night, the American Gaming Association held its Hall of Fame induction ceremony. After the jump, I'll talk about each of the inductees--some more than others.
The big-news name being honored this year is Sheldon Adelson, chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands, which owns the Venetian/Palazzo in Las Vegas, the Sands Macau/Venetian Macau, the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, and a casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. For quite some time Adelson didn't exactly see eye-to-eye with the AGA, but with the Global Gaming Expo being held at his properties in both Macau and Las Vegas, there has clearly been a reconciliation. That's good news for everyone.
For years I've had students in my History of Casinos class complete an assignment where they nominate someone for inclusion into the Gaming Hall of Fame. It's a fun exercise that, at the very least, familiarizes them with the current members (I warn them that any nomination of someone already inducted results in an automatic F). And, for the past few years, Sheldon Adelson's been a consistent choice. This is clearly an overdue selection, and one that's going to make this assignment much harder this year.
Adelson deserves to go in because he's at the helm of a company that currently owns properties in the world's top three gaming markets--the only CEO who can make that boast today. If that doesn't speak to having accomplished something of merit in the industry, I don't know what does.
Along with Sheldon, Venetian entertainment fixtures Blue Man Group (who are leaving for the Monte Carlo next year, so they're not permanent fixtures) were inducted as well. Ditto for celebrity chef Charlie Palmer, whose restaurants at Mandalay Bay/the Four Seasons and the Grand Sierra Resort were his ticket for the Hall.
While there's a good reason for inducting these non-gamers into the Hall of Fame, I'd be lying if I told you I was as enthusiastic about them as I am for men and women who've actually spent their careers in the industry. It made some sense to induct Frank Sinatra back in 1997 as the first non-gamer. After all, he's the Chairman of the freaking Board. But chefs like Wolfgang Puck, Michael Mina, and Charlie Palmer, while they may have done excellent work at casinos, aren't known primarily as casino guys. If you want to broaden the Hall to include people from F&B, I'd like to see them induct those from the casino side like VPs of F&B and executive chefs. Certainly a chef like Nat Hart, who created the Bacchannal at Caesars Palace and trained a generation of casino dining executives qualifies.
I feel the same way about the entertainers. It's nice to acknowledge their contributions, but I think that maybe they should have a separate wing of the Hall, with some more emphasis given to lifelong gamers in the Hall itself.
Which brings us to this year's final inductee, Professor William R. Eadington. I wrote extensively about the impact that Bill had on my career on my own blog earlier today. Suffice it to say that without Bill Eadington's work, it's doubtful that I'd be doing what I'm doing today. Forty years ago, he and his compatriots pioneered in the academic study of gambling. Their ground-breaking work not only aided the industry as well as the public; it also paved the way for the next generation of scholars, like me. For that I'm personally grateful.
I'm thrilled to see Dr. Eadington getting the recognition that he deserves--though he's made strides, this is still an industry that, too often, is leery of serious scholarly inquiry. But when you look at Eadington's body of work as an academic economist and as an advisor to operators, regulators, and jurisdictions, it's clear that this is someone who has helped shape the nature of today's casino industry.
So this was a solid class for the Hall of Fame. I'm still waiting for headshots and some more information for a few inductees, but look for an updated Gaming Hall of Fame page very soon.