For many, the 15th International Conference on Gambling & Risk Taking was more than a gaming conference; it was the 15th gathering of the “Eadington Clan,” those students, industry colleagues, friends and admirers of its intellectual and spiritual leader, Dr. Bill Eadington. Those who did not know Bill must have wondered what all the fuss was about. They would find out.
The germination of the Eadington Clan began with Eadington’s inspired first incarnation of the conference in1974. Many regard this conference as the first conference on gambling. It is easy to speculate that attendees who entered the conference center for the first time were much like freshmen far away from home, starting their first day of college full of anticipation and expectation yet accompanied by a small but nagging, unsettling tinge of uncertainty.
By the end of the conference, the novitiates of the clan were no doubt hooked by the commitment, passion, honesty and integrity of the pursuit of knowledge about all things gambling put in motion by Eadington. They left as full-fledged clan members with Eadington’s message embedded as a late addition to their DNA chain.
Membership and future participation in the clan would become an extricable part of who they are for years to come. Between conferences, clan members spread the good work and good intentions of Eadington, breeding and multiplying new clan members around the world in every nook and cranny of the gaming industry. This was a good thing. A wonderfully good thing.
It is testimony to Eadington’s role that the spread of this thirst for knowledge and quest to find the truth about gaming occurred at a time when gaming was still trying to escape the gravity of an illegal past and find a legitimate future. It is easy to forget the force of the headwinds from naysayers, critics and opponents that far outnumbered supporters during this time. It may be said that the “good guys” and the “right guys” won as first Eadington, then the original clan members, followed over the years by new clan members, collectively played a critical role making the industry what it is today: a legitimate, worldwide industry. The industry is not perfect, still grappling with problem and compulsive gaming as well as other community impacts that may not be all positive, but all the more reason for the clan and the conference to continue their work.
As most know, Eadington passed away in February from one of the few arguments and fights he could not overcome with his own knowledge, logic, and seeking of the truth: his argument and fight with cancer. The clan mourned individually, in groups, and collectively. But, in this 15th conference—the conference that the clan will probably always refer to as “Bill’s Conference”—Eadington was remembered with the reverence he deserved, and he was loved and celebrated out loud.
Gaming researcher Eugene Christiansen, a close friend and industry colleague of Eadington, spoke about Bill’s “ecumenical approach” to the gaming industry, referring not to a religion or religious exercise but in the context of his general, unconstrained, academic and worldwide approach to the subject versus the majority at the time, who were single-mindedly focusing on the industry’s criminal history and need to rid it of those remnants.
Mrs. Margaret Eadington was in attendance with their two children, Michael and Diana. At the conference dinner, she would tell us more about Dr. Eadington, her husband, our leader. Bill the Academic was clearly equally adept at being Bill the Husband, Bill the Father, and Bill the Guy Who Liked to Party and Have Fun.
Almost everyone in the room made a faux move to cover up their need to wipe a tear from their eyes, me more than once. Bill was, indeed, a great man.
At the risk of over-using a quote I still find poignant, “They say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” By this measure, within the gaming industry at least, Dr. Bill Eadington will live to a well-deserved forever.