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UNLV Eadington Fellows Find Gaming History In The Library


UNLV Special Collections, Binion's Horseshoe Collection

Benny Binion, in black jacket with sunglasses, watches the table action at the World Series of Poker in the Horseshoe Hotel and Casino, circa 1974 or 1976. A young Steve Wynn stands behind him.

The tie between sports media and cultural memory is strong.

Talk about a play from the Super Bowl five years ago, and someone might remember where they were and what they were doing at the time.

Alex Kupfer used his four weeks as an Eadington Fellow at UNLV to study the ties that bind sports media and cultural memory.

But this is Las Vegas, so Kupfer explored the idea through materials related to the old televised World Series of Poker tournaments at the Horseshoe Casino.

Kupfer's research culminated with his presentation titled, "The Biggest Game on TV: Benny Binion, the WSOP, and the Nostalgic Construction of Poker’s Past.”

"The first televising of the World Series of Poker was in 1973. It was a one hour CBS special," Kupfer said, "The World Series of Poker was used to promote the Horseshoe Casino and Benny Binion himself."  

But Kupfer said much of Binion's criminal past was cleaned up for the special and the materials used to promote for the tournament.

"Benny was able to shed this "gangster image" this sort of violence and intimidation that he used in Dallas and become this sort of patriarchal cowboy," Kupfer said. 

Kupfer said he thinks Binion would be shocked by how big the tournament is now with 6,400 people entering WSOP this year.

Support comes from

The fellowship is offered by the UNLV University Libraries Center for Gaming Research. This year five faculty and graduate researchers were awarded fellowships to study gaming and gambling.

Eadington fellows spend between two and five weeks conducting research at the University Libraries and present their findings through a colloquium series as well as their own scholarship.

Named in honor of William R. Eadington, who pioneered the academic study of gambling at the University of Nevada, Reno, fellowships have been awarded to 40 scholars since 2007.

Fellows have produced a dozen books, 14 academic articles, and more than 10 dissertations from their work at the University Libraries.

“This year’s roster of Eadington fellows will greatly advance our understanding of several aspects of gambling in history, culture, and society,” said David G. Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research. “I can think of no better tribute to the legacy of Bill Eadington than their important work."

Here are the other four Eadington fellows for 2015-2016 and the dates when they will each share their research with the public through the program's colloquium series:

December 3, 2015: “‘This Could Be Your Ticket Out': Social Mobility in the Age of Jackpot Capitalism” by Jon Cohen.

December 21, 2015: “Forgotten Femmes, Forgotten War: The Kim Sisters’ Dis-Appearance From American Screen and Scene” by Danielle Seid.

April 20, 2016: “The Evolution of Gaming Revenue in Nevada” by Scott Boylan.

August 15, 2016: “The Making of the Las Vegas Consumption Experience in a Historical Perspective” by Paul Franke.

Presentations are scheduled for 3 p.m. in Lied Library's Goldfield Room


Alex Kupfer, doctoral student from New York University and 2015-16 class of Eadington Fellows at the UNLV Center for Gaming Research. 


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