“We have mathematicians, historians, artists, political scientists, cultural anthropologists, biologists, criminologists, regulators, and psychologists—all here to share in this incredible pool of knowledge,” conference host Bo Bernhard told an eager audience at the 16th International Conference on Gambling and Risk Taking conference.
For five days in June, speakers from across disciplines and across continents gathered at The Mirage to engage in spirited dialogue and debate over such topics as best business practices, women in gaming leadership, problem gambling, the future of gambling, international gaming laws and policies, and more.
“The gambling world is expanding into seemingly endless new frontiers,” said UNLV Harrah Hotel College Professor Bernhard, who serves as the Executive Director of the conference organizer, UNLV’s International Gaming Institute (IGI). “As the intellectual capital for gaming, Las Vegas is the ideal place to explore common barriers, share best practices, and bring unity to the global gaming community.”
The IGI inherited the Gambling and Risk Taking conference from event founder, UNR economics professor Bill Eadington, who began the conference in 1974 to bring the best minds in gaming to the table every three years. His advice to Bernhard, who was tasked with growing the conference, was “invite the world, and let the world decide.” And decide, they did.
What began as a conference of three dozen participants has grown into an event with over 600 researchers and intellectuals from 31 countries around the world (including more than three dozen Harrah Hotel College professors and graduate students), all arriving with the same goal as Eadington’s: to better understand the world of gaming.
“Bill Eadington wanted to make sense of this industry,” said conference keynote speaker Steve Wynn. The Las Vegas gaming mogul went on to share the lessons he’s learned over a four-decade-long career that put mega-resorts like the Mirage, Bellagio, and Wynn Las Vegas on the map. “Gaming is a passive activity,” said Wynn. “Every roulette table is the same. Every black jack table is the same. They have no power. The only value is the experiential value of the enterprise.”
The much anticipated return of Steve Wynn to the place where it all began, The Mirage, was an experience in and of itself for conference attendees. “With the creation of The Mirage,” Bernhard told the audience, “Steve Wynn reinvented the genre, changing not just what the industry aspired to be, but also what this city aspired to be. He is the imagineer... the Walt Disney of the industry.”
The conference kicked off with cocktails at The Mirage’s Siegfried & Roy Secret Garden, where Siegfried—of the famed magic duo who opened The Mirage in 1989—greeted attendees. In addition to speakers and poster sessions, the event featured a traveling exhibit by the Las Vegas Mob Museum.