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We Are The 1 Percenters

New study shows commercial casinos are instrumental in aiding local communities

Those of us in the gaming industry have long known commercial casinos bring jobs, tax revenue and other valuable benefits to the communities that host them. Now, we have solid proof of these benefits in the form of a new economic impact study commissioned by the American Gaming Association.

“Beyond the Casino Floor: Economic Impacts of the Commercial Casino Industry,” conducted by one of the nation’s leading economic research firms and released in February, is a unique and in-depth report exploring the economic impact of the commercial casino industry from the national level all the way down to the state and local levels.

This is the first comprehensive study of the commercial casino industry in 15 years, and the first to detail how the economic activity from commercial casinos flows throughout the national economy via suppliers, employees, taxes and beyond. The report takes stock of the entire commercial casino resort, including non-gaming sources such as hotel operations, food and beverage sales, entertainment revenues and other activities. The report is different from others because it measures the effects of industry spending, as well as industry-supported and induced spending, and it truly quantifies the effect gaming has on local communities.

“Beyond the Casino Floor” shows just how enormous the economic contribution of the commercial casino industry really is. In fact, the research shows, based on direct, indirect and induced impacts, the commercial casino industry supported approximately $125 billion in spending and nearly 820,000 jobs in the U.S. economy in 2010. Taking all lines of business into account, commercial casinos directly generated $49.7 billion in consumer spending and about 350,000 jobs with salaries and benefits totaling nearly $15 billion in 2010.

Remarkably, total economic activity supported by the commercial casino industry was roughly equivalent to 1 percent of the $14.5 trillion U.S. gross domestic product in 2010.

The report definitively shows the effects of the commercial casino industry extend past the property’s walls and host-county limits and into communities across the nation. Nearly two-thirds ($46.6 billion) of all indirect and induced economic outputs from commercial casinos in 2010 were generated beyond casino-host and nearby counties. Communities see these benefits directly. For example, the Patriot-News recently reversed its opinion that gaming would be detrimental to Pennsylvania. The newspaper, whose editorial board had been staunchly anti-gaming before the introduction of casinos in the area, now in the face of strong evidence admits that casinos have, in fact, been very good for the state.

Since the casinos opened, the average property owner has seen $190 in tax relief a year. There has been a growth of 15,000 jobs directly related to the industry, and crime has not increased significantly, according to law enforcement officials. In Dauphin County alone, $10.3 million in property tax relief this fiscal year has been given out to homeowners and $409,000 in grants have been given to local fire and ambulance companies as a result of Pennsylvania’s gaming industry.

The local economic effects of commercial casinos are highlighted on the AGA website in the form of a new easy-to-use interactive map that shows the total economic impact, total labor income and total employment per individual state. This type of data has never been collected before, and will be instrumental in showing the impact of the industry.

The AGA will continue with the theme of measuring industry impact on the local level with the year’s annual “State of the States” report, which will provide a detailed analysis of the national and state-by-state economic impact of the commercial casino industry in 2011, as well as a look at the national impact of the gaming equipment manufacturing sector. Scheduled for release in May, the report will include the results of a survey sent to community leaders in casino counties about their perspectives on the impact of gaming in their areas. This will be an update to a similar survey conducted in 2005.

“Beyond the Casino Floor” isn’t just about dollars and cents; the report also shows the human side of the commercial casino industry. The AGA website includes a section called “Faces of the Industry,” which spotlights the employees who are the heart and soul of our business. It includes first-person accounts from chefs, administrators, engineers and other gaming professionals, each of whom speaks about the impact the industry has had on his or her life.

These employees praise the supportive work environment and growth opportunities provided by the commercial casino industry, and many mention working with smart, creative colleagues. Their stories show just how important jobs provided by the commercial casino industry are to local communities. Over the course of the next year, the AGA plans to continue interviewing industry employees and recording their stories in an effort to paint a more complete picture of the industry.

The wealth of information in “Beyond the Casino Floor” is invaluable to the AGA and its members. The report has been distributed to reporters, regulators and others to help them better understand the intricacies and contributions of the commercial casino industry. We encourage our members to share this report with key stakeholders in the industry so they too can understand the local and personal impact of our business.

In the end, “Beyond the Casino Floor” shows what many of us in the gaming industry already knew—commercial casinos are an instrumental part of the U.S. economy, creating much-needed jobs and supporting a wide variety of industries throughout the entire economy.

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