Job potential should be big news thanks to gaming

Nov 20, 2012 3:08 AM

Look at all those new jobs…thousands of them. They may be coming to your part of the country.

Thanks to the gaming and entertainment business.

“Tens of thousands” of new jobs will be created over the next several years as resort projects to which there are already significant commitments continue taking shape across the U.S.

The jobs will be there for whoever wants them.

I went looking for numbers but sources in the gaming industry were hard-pressed to come up with guesstimates. Caesars Entertainment Senior VP Jan Jones was comfortable saying the national total will be in the “tens of thousands.”

Kind of like a gift that keeps on giving. That’s good news generally for a fragile national economy and an industry that has occasionally had trouble making all the friends it would like to have in important places.

If President Obama had his perspective on straight a few years ago, he might have avoided the misstep that was made when warning company execs about spending their bailout money in Las Vegas. The president failed to recognize both sides of the economic incentive issue as travel and tourism has had a difficult time the last several years.

This job potential should be big news as unemployment statistics linger close to eight or nine percent. And it probably would get more recognition if gaming’s most important product (the search for a good time) was counted among durable goods like refrigerators or washing machines.

Too bad the ongoing search for entertainment, through good times and bad, does not often get the credit it deserves as a source of good-paying employment.

The layoffs announced last week by Texas Instruments and Hostess got me wondering about how gaming has underplayed its role as a creator of jobs.

The heavy attention financial analysts put on casino numbers sometimes make it seem as though the only jobs in gaming are as dealers on casino games. The job skills a total resort requires go far beyond tossing cards although the $60-$70,000 (and more that a dealer earns at one of the big Strip casinos) is enough to catch the attention of a potential employee looking for access to a middle class lifestyle and beyond.

I’ve been told that about 40 cents of every dollar won in Atlantic City goes toward marketing efforts of one kind or another. It’s obvious millions have been invested in the development and constant tweaking of marketing strategies that keep Las Vegas resorts busy. It’s work that adds up to a lot of jobs.

Opposing candidates lacerated each other with their sharp edged we-need-to-create-jobs rhetoric leading up to the Nov. 6 election. The jobs issue was a recurring theme whenever Romney, Obama and their respective surrogates stepped to a microphone.

So what came out of the election? The short answer: Evidence of a guarantee that gaming and entertainment will continue to provide a middle class or better standard of living for a lot of people. The “imagineers” who have made travel and tourism a major contributor to the American economy create a lot of opportunities with each new destination-type attraction.

As for what’s happening now, in Maryland alone, there is the guarantee of an additional large resort, and table games at those already approved. That’s just one state. The list of locales where jobs are being created because of gaming and entertainment developments stretches over the horizon in every direction.

Policymakers in Massachusetts are working their way through the process that will lead to several large casinos. Pennsylvania has another casino license to award. There are another two casinos coming to cities in Ohio and let’s not forget about the possibility of racetrack developments.

What’s important about gaming is that the tide continues to rise. This is not speculation. It’s a fact based on activities in several states.

Who knows what kind of expansion plan may eventually be brought to us courtesy of the people who make all those interesting things happen in Illinois politics. It is a near certainty Florida and Texas will eventually have gaming resorts as the powerbrokers in each of these states decide to get real.

Commercial gaming has acquainted a growing audience of people with its ability to create “real jobs” but there is still work to be done among influential forces who won’t let a bundle of facts get in the way of a comfortable prejudice. These groups continue urging incentives to lure companies that will not hire more than a fraction of the people who will eventually be employed by projects like those MGM and Caesars hope to build in Maryland or Massachusetts.

And that’s before we get to what’s happening across the rest of the country as gaming evolves into mainstream entertainment, spreading its wings to head toward places it has never been before.

Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. He can be reached at [email protected].

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