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WSU Everett professor featured in new CNBC documentary “Generation Gamble”

Closeup of Kahlil Philander.
Kahlil Philander sat down for a CNBC documentary called "Generation Gamble" earlier this year. Photo Courtesy - CNBC

A WSU Everett professor who studies the gambling industry is featured in a new CNBC documentary on the risky financial behaviors of Millennials and Gen Z.

Mobile apps taking cues from slot machines, how social media’s playbook for increasing engagement is being applied to investments and the rise of NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, were among the topics Kahlil Philander discussed with the film’s producers earlier this year.

“On the heels of Wall Street Bets’ rise and the Gamestop/AMC episodes, the filmmakers knew they wanted to do something around risk taking, so I talked to them about some recent findings around consumer behavior and what it means for where the world is today,” Philander said.

Generation Gamble,” hosted by CNBC’s Melissa Lee, debuts Tuesday at 8 p.m. EST

Philander is an assistant professor in the School of Hospitality Business Management. In addition to his teaching and research commitments, Philander interfaces with tribal gaming businesses along the I-5 corridor. He earned his Ph.D in Hospitality Administration/Management from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

While searching for a Ph.D program in economics, Philander became keenly interested in the gambling industry, which led him to UNLV.

“Economics is a challenging field for minorities and women to break in to, and so I was able to find a field outside of that world that fit my interests and background,” he said.

Philanders’ time as an undergrad at the University of British Columbia coincided with the poker boom of the early 2000s. Regulations were lax in the online gambling space, games became bigger and the number of players skyrocketed. Federal regulation brought that boom to an end in 2006, though subsequent boom periods have kept online gambling afloat.

Philanders’ research focuses on behaviors wherein something of value is risked in pursuit of financial reward and how people perceive the risk therein.

“Gambling games are one of few products where the consumer doesn’t know the total cost of the product, that is, how much the house is taking out of every spin,” Philander said. “Because of that, people don’t know how much they’re putting at risk, and so they don’t even know how to start to think about how much risk they are taking.”

With some states relaxing regulations around gambling, and particularly sports gambling, mobile apps have jumped in and made the process as easy as possible. Efforts to make transactions frictionless and promoting habit-forming behaviors are taken directly from social media sites. This same phenomenon is also being seen in the investment space with apps like Robinhood, which look much more like Instagram than their predecessors like E-Trade.

“It’s one thing when these tactics are used capturing your attention,” Philander said. “This isn’t just clicks and photos, these apps are places where young people store most of their wealth, and if you gamify risk-taking behaviors with someone’s entire net worth at stake, the scale of potential negative outcomes and overexposing themselves to treading can be a very dangerous recipe for consumers.”

To catch a sneak preview of the documentary, visit CNBC’s website.

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