Winners aren’t just limited to inside the confines of a casino.
Pennsylvania is experiencing a jackpot of jobs and an economic windfall as a result of the casino gaming industry.
On May 29, at a Get to Know Gaming event, the American Gaming Association (AGA) released their latest report, Casinos & Communities – Pennsylvania. It provided an in-depth look at the gaming industry’s economic and social contributions to communities across the state.
Highlights of the report included:
- 33,171 jobs supported
- $1.8 billion in wages generated
- $2.5 billion generated in taxes
In 2004, Pennsylvania legislators passed the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act, legalizing casinos and racinos. Today, there are 12 commercial casinos and racinos across the Commonwealth, which have rocketed Pennsylvania to the second-highest commercial gaming revenue in the United States, behind only Nevada.
“Over the last 15 years, gaming companies across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have served as an anchor for state and local economies, generating billions of dollars in tax revenue and operating as good stewards and community partners in the places casinos call home,” said Bill Miller, president and chief executive officer of the American Gaming Association.
Casinos as a beacon of hope
The growth of the gaming industry helped fill the void left by the downturn of the mining and manufacturing industries.
Ravaged by the high unemployment, crime and poverty for decades, the 2007 opening of Caesars Entertainment’s Harrah’s Philadelphia provided a beacon of hope. In May 2015, Harrah’s reported:
- 1,400 jobs created
- $1.6 million in charitable contributions
- $1.4 billion in taxes
- A $100 million economic impact in the city of Chester
Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland explained that when the shipbuilding, steel and automobile industries left the city, jobs were limited and businesses were not coming.
“Harrah’s was the first real economic development that we had in this city for quite some time – for decades. They took a bet on the city. Folks now feel good about going to work in the morning. The casino has provided them with the opportunity to better take care of their families. And not just jobs, because jobs can come and go, but they provide them with career opportunities.”
Boosting the economy and nightlife
Twenty-five miles south of Chester, King of Prussia is in many ways, a world apart. It is home to the largest concentration of commercial office, industrial and flex buildings in the Philadelphia suburbs.
However, the area needed a boost from the 2008 recession. Boyd Gaming’s Valley Forge Casino was a “big, big part of that transition from a bad economy to a good economy,” said Eric Goldstein, executive director of King of Prussia’s Business Improvement District.
The casino created job opportunities and attracted visitors while keeping entertainment dollars in the community with their nightlife offerings such as musical acts, stand-up comedy, dueling pianos and Valley Beach, a pool bar with entertainment every Friday and Saturday night during the summer months.
“In the past four years, we’ve added almost 40 new restaurants at King of Prussia, which is crazy. You must have a lot of people to support that level of new business. The casino is obviously helping with that,” Goldstein added.
Casinos as community partners
The impact of Pennsylvania casinos is not limited to their utility as economic engines. They boost local government budgets, support many community causes and are actively involved in the areas they call home.
In April, SugarHouse hosted a veteran-focused job fair to recruit over 100 candidates. In early 2019, SugarHouse was recognized for the seventh time as a “Top Workplace” by the Philadelphia Inquirer and also earned multiple “Best Places to Work” honors from the Philadelphia Business Journal. The Philadelphia-based casino is known for offering employees exceptional benefits, immediate 401 (k) vesting, and tuition reimbursement for continuing education.
Parx poured $90 million into over 800 organizations. Their representatives sit on the boards of addiction facilities and homeless shelters in the Bensalem area.
When the Greater Washington County Food Bank needed a new location, local grant funding from casino revenue “made it possible,” said Executive Director Connie Burd.
The new building with its 800-square-foot cooler and 400-square-foot freezer has enabled the food bank to “get out a lot more fresh produce to people” than before the grant. Employees from The Meadows regularly volunteer their time giving out food to low-income families and seniors.
Winning in western Pennsylvania
The western side of Pennsylvania is winning, too. Communities in and around Pittsburgh have benefitted from an economic upturn from Rivers Casino and the Meadows Racetrack & Casino.
Before Penn National Gaming’s Meadows Racetrack & Casino opened in Washington County in 2009, lifelong resident Larry Laggi recalled a stagnant economy with the area “losing jobs, losing people and losing families.”
Laggi equated the economic impact and excitement generated by the casino with the boon days of the local coal mining and steel industries.
“Every community, large and small, has prospered and benefited from gaming being in Washington County.”
Over the past 11 years, gaming has generated almost half-a-billion dollars for Washington County. That money funded job creation, infrastructure and workforce development projects, according to Jeff Kotula, president of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce.
“Those monies go right back into our economy. They go right back into new projects, encouraging more and more population growth, business investment and things of that nature in our community.”