WASHINGTON—Elected officials and civic leaders in gaming communities across the country have an overwhelmingly positive view of the impact of casinos in their community, according to the results of a survey analyzed in the latest release in the American Gaming Association’s (AGA) 10th anniversary white paper series. According to the paper, the survey’s most significant finding is that, with the benefit of hindsight, a full 75 percent of community leaders indicated that they would vote to allow casinos in their community if they could go back and do it all over again.
“Community Leaders’ Perceptions of Gaming Industry’s Effects,” is authored by Peter D. Hart, CEO of Peter D. Hart Research Associates, a leading survey research firm based in Washington, D.C. The paper looks at data from a survey among 201 local community leaders in jurisdictions with commercial casino gaming, including racetrack casinos. It offers an expanded analysis of data originally presented in the 2005 AGA State of the States survey, including several first-hand anecdotes of how casinos have impacted specific communities.
Hart conducted the survey among community leaders included mayors, city and county council members, chiefs of police, chamber of commerce leaders and others. According to the results, these leaders welcome the additional tax revenue, jobs, secondary economic development and contributions to the community and charitable organizations that casinos provide.
According to the survey, the benefits provided by casinos met or exceeded community leaders’ initial high expectations in a number of areas, including their ability to increase the tax base and government revenues, expand economic activity and jobs, provide entertainment, make contributions to community and charitable organizations, and expand area tourism. Overall, more than half – 58 percent – of community leaders say the introduction of casinos turned out better than they expected.
The paper also examines community leaders’ perceptions of the economic impact of casinos in their communities and how they differ from those of some policymakers and gambling opponents, especially when discussing taxes. According to the paper, community leaders roundly reject opponents’ claims that casinos simply redistribute money that would have been spent in other ways, with more than two-thirds saying casinos have generated a net increase for their states and local communities.
These community leaders also reject the idea that casinos should be taxed more than other businesses, as fully 58 percent say all businesses, including casinos, should pay the same tax increase in the event that a community needs to raise additional revenue.
Also, while gambling opponents often purport that casinos “cannibalize” other businesses in the communities where they operate, Hart’s results strongly dispute this claim.
“Officials who have watched the development of casinos in their communities have little question that, on balance, casinos have been a positive force for other area companies,” he writes. “By…more than three to one, community leaders are more likely to say casinos have done more to help rather than hurt other businesses in their community.”
According to Hart, when asked to name some of the negative effects of casinos, the one concern that stands out is that casinos have led to an increase in gambling addiction, which 19 percent volunteer as a problem. However, despite this issue, the paper indicates that, taking everything into consideration, community leaders are six times more likely to say casinos’ net impact on their community has been positive (79 percent) rather than negative (13 percent).
According to Hart, the results of the survey are a “compelling endorsement of gaming that such a large percentage of community leaders – those who are closest to the issue and best understand the benefits and costs associated with casino gaming – remain so strongly favorable toward the decision to bring casinos to their communities.”
Each white paper in the 10th anniversary research series will be authored by an individual or organization with expert knowledge of the paper’s topic and will provide either an analytical or broad-stroke examination of a different industry-related subject. The first paper, “The Impacts of Gaming Taxation in the United States,” was authored by Eugene Christiansen, CEO of Christiansen Capital Advisors and examines the impact of gaming tax rates on jobs, capital investment and other economic factors in casino states. Additional planned white paper topics include the economic impact of the industry, workforce diversity, employee wages and benefits, responsible gaming, and more.
The full text of ““Community Leaders’ Perceptions of Gaming Industry’s Effects,” is available in the “10th Anniversary Research Series” section of the AGA Web site. Subsequent papers will be added to the site as released during the next six months.
The AGA represents the commercial casino-entertainment industry by addressing federal legislative and regulatory issues. The association also serves as a clearinghouse for information, develops educational and advocacy programs, and provides leadership on industry-related issues of public concern.