Monday, September 26, 2011

Casinos: "The only reason we are doing this"

This weekend state Senate President Therese Murray claimed "jobs" as the sole motivator behind the current hell-bent-for-leather push to legalize casino gaming in Massachusetts.  "This is a jobs bill; that's the only reason we're doing this," she said. "If we had a cooking economy, you wouldn't see this happening."

Predictions about the number of jobs that Massachusetts casinos will bring have, like most predictions tied to the casino push, been all over the map. And the numbers emanating from casino advocates - based on casino industry numbers - have been optimistic to say the least.  So it is helpful to stumble over a concrete reference point, as the Globe did (without even noticing) in its feature article yesterday on Pennsylvania's casino experience.

Since legalization of gaming in 2004, Pennsylvania has built ten "full-scale casinos," the Globe informs us.  That is 3.33 times as many casinos as are proposed for Massachusetts, by the way.  Humming and chirping briskly, 24-7, Pennsylvania's casinos currently employ... approximately 15,000 people. 

Sound familiar?  15,000.  Exactly the number of jobs that Massachusetts casino advocates claim will be created by our three casinos.  So somehow we are to believe that our casinos are going to produce the same number of gaming jobs as Pennsylvania's, with fewer than a third as many casinos.  Cruel and inflexible math.  How you mock us.

A little quick napkin doodle tells me that 5,000 permanent jobs is more likely - and even that ignores that PA jumped into the casino market during an economic boom, whereas we're taking a desperation dive in the midst of a grueling recession.  5,000 jobs - which will add less than 1/3 of 1 percent  to the total jobs in Massachusetts.  And even that overstates.  These out of state casino developers slobbering over our market aren't going to open up Card Sharp Academies at each facility.  A healthy percentage of those jobs are going to be filled by seasoned gaming pros imported from out of state.  But no matter - the casino caucus and the press will continue to parrot that 15,000 figure as though there were nothing to check it against.  And when it fails to materialize?  Well, we can always build more casinos.

The Globe article is also worth a read for the tales it tells of the corruption, graft, political patronage and other unsavory side effects that have attended casino gaming in Pennsylvania.
The financial success of Pennsylvania’s casinos was built on the ambitious scope of the effort and the rich profitability of the industry, but also on a foundation of cronyism, patronage, and back-room deals, not to mention overlooked criminal histories and alleged mob ties, according to a grand jury report released earlier this year.  The report concluded that the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board - which was created to protect taxpayers’ interests - had instead looked after the industry, that it had taken “the public policy objectives and essentially turned them on their head.’’
But never fear.  “The good news is we’re state number 37, not number one,’’ Senator Stanley Rosenberg told the Globe. “That means we get to pick the best practices all across the country.’’

In this already famously corrupt state, where patronage, self-dealing, and criminal indictment of high-ranking elected officials are as ordinary as the turning of the seasons, we are told that we need not worry.  Our foxes have all taken oaths of vegetarianism, and can now be trusted to tend a shiny new hen house (or three).


  1. "The good news is we’re state number 37, not number one," Senator Stanley Rosenberg told the Globe. "That means we get to pick the best practices all across the country."

    Um... wasn't Pennsylvania like... state number 36?

  2. Fuzzy math and foggy numbers?

    On page 47 of the most recent American Gaming Association report [2011], it indicates that Pennsylvania employed 9,126 in 2009, 12,664 in 2010. []

    There was a report that I'm seeking that indicated the breakdown of part-time and full-time employees. I seem to recall that it was about 25% who were part-time.

    These numbers seem to grow with political manure added.


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