WASHINGTON - American icon Merv Griffin will be inducted into the American Gaming Association’s (AGA) Gaming Hall of Fame and will receive a lifetime achievement award for his commitment to entertainment and gaming.
Often described as “the total performer,” an “entrepreneurial powerhouse” and a “friend and confidant,” Griffin is one of the country’s most popular personalities. After a successful career in big bands, movies and early television, Griffin became a substitute host in the 1960s on “The Tonight Show,” and soon after starred in his own hour-long talk show program “The Merv Griffin Show.” The talk show aired for 23 years and was often taped at Caesars Palace and The Riviera in Las Vegas, and The Golden Nugget in Atlantic City, N.J.
Throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, Griffin created numerous successful game shows, including “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune.” Both shows later became themes of popular slot machine games.
Griffin’s passion for the hospitality and casino business arose from his years of touring and literally “living out of hotels.” His acquisition strategy began in 1987 with the purchase of the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., and continued the next year when he purchased Resorts International in Atlantic City, N.J., and Paradise Island in the Bahamas. Griffin’s other foray into casino ownership was as the major stockholder of one of the first riverboat companies, Players International, which opened three riverboat casinos during the mid-1990s. Griffin ended his ventures in the gaming industry by the end of the decade, but he continues to own several hotels and resort destinations around the world.
In addition to his achievements in the gaming and hospitality industries, Griffin has been the recipient of 15 Emmy Awards, the Broadcasting and Cable “Hall of Fame” Award, an Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show Emmy for 1993-94 as executive producer of “Jeopardy!,” the Scopus Award and the John Wayne Cancer Institute’s “The Duke Award,” among others. His notoriety also is apparent through his work with various charitable and nonprofit organizations, including Childhelp USA and La Quinta Arts Foundation, which named Griffin as Lifetime Honorary Festival Chairman of La Quinta Arts Festival.
Another award, which will be presented to Shannon Bybee, director of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV) International Gaming Institute and professor at the UNLV Hotel College and Boyd School of Law, recognizes special achievement in responsible gaming.
A former member of the Nevada Gaming Control Board as well as gaming executive, Bybee was instrumental in bringing about the dialogue that led to problem gambling regulations in the state as well as in promoting the need for industry involvement in responsible gaming. In 1991, Bybee was elected to the board of directors of the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), and four years later he was selected to be the council’s first president. In addition, he was the first to introduce problem gambling information into UNLV’s hotel college, which eventually would became part of the curriculum of all Hotel “101” classes.
The honorees will be recognized Sept. 18 at the AGA Awards Dinner Honoring America’s Gaming Greats at Paris Las Vegas, coinciding with the industry trade show and conference Global Gaming Expo (G2E). Griffin joins 43 other industry giants who have been inducted into the Gaming Hall of Fame since its inception in 1989, while Bybee joins gaming companies Boyd Gaming Corporation, Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc. and Park Place Entertainment Corporation as a recipient of the responsible gaming achievement award.
Proceeds from the event benefit the National Center for Responsible Gaming, a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding independent, peer-reviewed scientific research on pathological and youth gambling. Last year, the AGA Awards Dinner raised more than $175,000 for problem gambling research.
The AGA represents the commercial casino-entertainment industry by addressing federal legislative and regulatory issues. The association also serves as a clearinghouse for information, develops educational and advocacy programs, and provides leadership on industry-related issues of public concern.