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Special Collections & Archives Completes Work on NHPRC Grant “America’s Great Gamble”

By Su Kim Chung on October 23, 2017 11:48 AM | Permalink


"America's Great Gamble" project staff at work on the NHPRC-funded project. 

Special Collections and Archives (SCA) project staff recently completed work on the National Historical Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC) grant-funded project, “America’s Great Gamble: A Project to Promote the Discovery of Sources About the Expansion of Legalized Gambling Across the United States.” The $129,600 grant allowed SCA to hire two full-time project archivists, and two student assistants who were able to process and describe four of our most significant modern gaming collections. These collections are now fully accessible to researchers and will provide valuable insight into the gaming industry of the twentieth century. “America’s Great Gamble” was launched in April 2016 and completed in September 2017. Project staff followed efficient processing guidelines in order to process over 400 linear feet of collection material. The four collections were described according to archival best practices, and their finding aids can now be accessed online through the UNLV Libraries website.  

Collections Processed

The collections processed as part of "America’s Great Gamble" include the personal papers and research files of three noted gaming consultants, and the corporate archives of Harrah’s Entertainment (now Caesars Entertainment) which owns properties throughout the United States, including flagship properties in Las Vegas such as Caesars Palace and Harrah’s Las Vegas. They include:

  • The Katherine A. Spilde Papers on Native American Gaming are comprised of a vast array of documents collected by anthropologist Katherine Spilde about Native American gaming and the greater gaming industry, primarily dating from 1995 to 2010. They also include research and subject files created by Dr. Spilde during her employment with the National Gambling Impact Study Commission (NGISC), the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA), and the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development (HPAIED).
  • The Eugene Martin Christiansen Papers were compiled during his many decades as a consultant to the gaming industry and include a wealth of research files, reports, and presentations about gambling written and collected by Christiansen. Materials in the collection date from 1948 to 2017, with the bulk of the collection dating from 1975 to 2005.
  • The  Gary W. Royer Collection on Gaming contains the extensive research files of gaming consultant and auditing agent Gary Royer, who provided casino managing, auditing, and accounting expertise to hundreds of corporations, casinos, and regulatory agencies. The collection dates from 1950 to 2009, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1970 to 1995.
  • The Harrah's Entertainment Corporate Archives contain the promotional and corporate files of Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. and its predecessors, as well as founder Bill Harrah’s personal papers and card game collection. The materials were compiled and developed as a corporate archive by Harrah's Entertainment, Inc.’s Corporate Communications Department. They date from 1811 to 2004 with the bulk of the materials dating from 1940 to 2000.

A "before and after" shot of one of our collections with one of our project archivists, Lindsay Oden.

Future Scholarship

The collections processed as part of the “America’s Great Gamble” are already being used by scholars. This year, a number of the Eadington Fellows selected by the Center for Gaming Research in UNLV Libraries Special Collections and Archives will be utilizing the Katherine Spilde Papers and the Eugene Martin Christiansen Papers during their fellowship residencies. They will produce a public talk (available online afterward as a podcast), along with a scholarly paper that will be featured in our Center for Gaming Research Occasional Papers series.

Scholars scheduled to work with the collections in the coming year include:

  • Dr. Colleen O’Neill, associate professor of History at Utah State University, who will be using the Spilde Papers to study issues related to how union organizing in Indian casinos has complicated decolonization efforts and has challenged American Indian governments to create new governing institutions.
  • Kim Manh, Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of Houston, who will be using both the Christiansen Papers and Spilde Papers for his dissertation research on gaming policy diffusion and gaming rights expansion in both commercial and tribal arenas.
  • Michelle L. Malkin, a doctoral student in the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University, who will be using the Spilde Papers for their insight into the social and economic impact of gambling for her research study exploring the lives and experiences of people who have a history of compulsive gambling.
  • Dr. Tim Simpson, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, and Associate Professor in the Department of Communication, University of Macau, who will be using the Spilde Papers in order to conduct a comparative study of sovereignty in Chinese and North American gaming enclaves. His project explores cross-cultural and transnational analysis of relationships among sovereignty and casino gaming in Asian and North American gaming enclaves.

We are grateful for the NHPRC funding which allowed us to complete this important project and enables us to provide researchers with access to material that will be of significant value to the research of gaming as an economic, social, cultural, and political force in the twentieth century.

For more information:

Additional details about project specifics including the project narrative and reports, project staff, processing metrics, publicity, and much more is available on the America’s Great Gamble project website