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    American Gaming Association report highlights positive financial impacts of casinos, while opponents point to untold negatives

    October 2, 2014

    A casino gaming trade group released a report this week highlighting some of the positive financial impacts that the gambling industry has had across the country, including approximately $38 billion in annual tax payments to local, state and the federal governments.

    The report, produced for the American Gaming Association by the United Kingdom-based Oxford Economics, points to some of the positive impacts of almost 1,000 casinos located across 39 states.

    “The research reveals a vast industry that supports local communities across the country through business linkages and employment generation,” said Adam Sacks, director of Oxford Economics, in a statement. “Given the relatively high levels of taxes on the casino industry, it supports a wide range of government services as well.”

    The report, which paints a rosy picture of the gaming industry, was released in conjunction with the ongoing Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. And while it concludes the industry contributes to an economic impact of $240 billion annually and sustains more than 1.7 million jobs across the country, with 734,000 people working directly for gaming companies, anti-casino activists looking to strike down the Massachusetts casino gaming law say the report glosses over the negative impact on families and municipalities when casinos open their doors.

    “No one disputes that casinos employ people, spend money to buy goods and services, and pay their taxes—although some casinos have recently come under fire for not paying their fair share. It’s also indisputable, and undeniable, that the costs greatly outweigh the purported benefits in region after region and state after state,” said John Riberio, chair of the Repeal the Casino Deal effort. “Springfield and the surrounding area will pay for the oncoming mess in the form of increased service costs due to the increases in traffic, crime, and problem gamblers. Springfield and its surrounding communities deserve more than empty promises.”

    But the report, even if it doesn’t address the negative impact of problem gambling on a community and the potential cannibalization of independent businesses, speaks to what some Springfield voters have cited as pluses of having a casino since July 2013 when they voted to approve the MGM Resorts International project for the city in a 57.6 percent to 42.4 percent referendum.

    In regards to supply and service contracts, which MGM has been busy negotiating with companies across Massachusetts, the report indicates that as a whole, the casino industry is to thank for around $60 billion in annual payments for supplies. And as the already-approved MGM project has projected an influx of millions in employee spending into the region’s economy, the report indicates that across the nation, casino employees spend $78 billion annually.

    “We’ve known for a long time that our industry’s contributions have gone underestimated, but these numbers are bigger than even we anticipated,” said Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, in a statement. “Gaming is driving big results in hundreds of American communities. Our future success depends on strong partnerships with policymakers that allow us to innovate, reinvent, and create more jobs.”

    In Massachusetts, both sides of the casino argument are squaring off in a battle of public opinion ahead of the Nov. 4 vote which gives the voters an opportunity to strike down a 2011 law licensing up to three resort casinos and a slots parlor in Massachusetts. Polling has shown likely voters in the commonwealth favor maintaining the existing law by a margin of about 10 percent, a margin the pro-casino side quietly says is a threshold to success at the ballot box in less than five weeks.

    Internal polling released by the Repeal the Casino Deal group on Wednesday indicated that their side actually holds a 10-point advantage, but the one thing all polling agrees upon is that the closeness of the race means things can go either way depending on who decides to vote on Election Day.

    The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has already approved two resort-style casinos and a slots parlor in the commonwealth, with the race for the third and final casino license in Southeast Mass. expected to commence in the coming months.

    MGM’s $800 million Springfield casino project and Wynn Resorts’ $1.6 billion Everett casino proposal have both cleared the necessary legislative hurdles, minus the ending ballot question. Penn National Gaming’s $225 million slots parlor at the Plainridge harness race track in Plainville is also approved and currently under construction.

    For the full article from MassLive.com, click here.

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