The assistant professor of communications delivered a colloquium talk at UNLV’s Center for Gaming Research, exploring the unknown stories of Las Vegas’s history and how press releases contributed to the growth of the gaming industry.
As part of her William R. Eadington Fellowship in Gaming Research, Assistant Professor Jessalynn Strauss completed a two-week residency at the Special Collections Library at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, concluding her stay with a Jan. 25 colloquium talk.
In her lecture, “Promoting Las Vegas: Stories and Strategies of Casino Press Releases,” Strauss detailed the history of casinos in Las Vegas and how they evolved into legitimate business endeavors and investments. Strauss added to her extensive background studying casinos, particularly in the city of Las Vegas, by examining press releases from the 1960s to 1990s during her residency. She looked at how the rise of public relations – and specifically the use of press releases – helped push the gaming industry out of its past and into a new era of legitimacy.
Strauss studied press releases available in the Publicity and Promotions archive of the Gaming Collection in UNLV’s Special Collections, widely considered the world’s premier research repository of information relating to gambling and commercial gaming.
“The press release played a very important role in casinos’ efforts to communicate with audiences, especially those audiences that were geographically distant,” said Strauss in her talk.
During her lecture, Strauss discussed two of the ways that press releases helped casinos grow as businesses. First, the casinos promoted elements of the business that they hoped newspapers and magazines might help amplify, increasing the reach of these messages to potential visitors. Secondly, the releases highlighted casino corporations engaging in typical business dealings, as well as their charitable endeavors.
“This is hardly surprising given the context and particularly the time frame,” explained Strauss. “In the 1980s and 1990s, the gaming industry was gearing up for an era of dizzying growth. It was the investment of banks and stockholders that enabled this growth and these press releases would have helped establish these casinos as legitimate business interests, and a good investment going forward.”
In addition to her public talk, which was recorded as part of the center’s podcast series, Strauss will contribute a brief paper to UNLV’s Occasional Paper Series. Additionally, her research will be featured as a chapter in the upcoming collection “Jackpot: Gambling throughout American History.”
Strauss is one of four individuals awarded a 2016-17 William R. Eadington Fellowship, a program that allows researchers to explore the archives of the UNLV Libraries Special Collection. Named in honor of William R. Eadington, who pioneered the academic study of gambling at the University of Nevada, Reno, Eadington Fellows spend between two and five weeks conducting research at UNLV’s University Libraries and present their findings through a colloquium series as well as their own scholarship.
Other 2016-17 Eadington Fellows include Massimo Leone, professor of semiotics, cultural semiotics and visual semiotics at the University of Turin, Italy; Mark R. Johnson, postdoctoral fellow in the Science & Technology Studies Unit at the University of York; and Kelli Wood, assistant professor in the Department of the History of Art at the University of Michigan.
During her career, Strauss has extensively researched corporate social responsibility and public relations in the gaming industry, particularly in Las Vegas. In her 2015 book, “Challenging Corporate Social Responsibility: Lessons for public relations from the casino industry,” Strauss discusses the paradoxes in contemporary corporate social responsibility through the example of the gaming industry.
About the Center for Gaming Research
Located within Special Collections at UNLV’s Lied Library, the Center for Gaming Research is committed to providing support for scholarly inquiry into all aspects of gaming. Through its website, the center offers several unique research tools and information sources.