Fewer Americans Think Casinos Create Jobs, Industry Study Finds

The casino industry has never been larger in terms of its footprint and gambling win, but a study found fewer people believe it creates jobs.
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The casino industry is rapidly changing as sports betting, mostly done via the web, is sweeping the U.S. Online casino gambling is also proliferating, with Michigan set to launch late this year or in early 2021. COVID-19 is expected to have a lasting impact, accelerating state adoption of new forms of wagering.

Last week, the American Gaming Association published its annual report on the state of the U.S. commercial casino industry. The lobbying group on Capitol Hill found that in 2019, the commercial casino sector won $43.61 billion from gamblers, up 3.7% over 2018.

It was the fifth straight year gambler losses increased.

Twenty-five states have commercial casinos, and many others have tribal casinos. Tribal casino winnings weren’t included in the report, though it’s known that those casinos win more than $33 billion each year from gamblers. Together, operations classified as casinos win more than $76 billion annually.

According to the AGA, there were 465 retail commercial casinos in 2019. That figure doesn’t include commercial card rooms in California, for example, or “electronic gaming device locations” across the country. The 465 figure is unchanged from 2018, according to last year’s study.

Less optimism about job creation

While the impact of the pandemic on the industry continues to play out as casinos across the country start to reopen, the AGA’s 2020 report indicated that fewer Americans see casinos as job creators. In late 2019, 71% of respondents believed the casino industry creates jobs, down from 77% in 2018.

The 71% was also down from the 74% in 2014. It’s still a strong majority, but it could reflect a changing attitude as gambling increasingly utilizes labor-saving technologies.

The 2019 survey found that 8% of respondents believed the casino industry “hurt[s]  jobs,” down from 9% in 2018. The percentage who see them as having “no effect” on jobs (12%) was also relatively unchanged. Below is a graph of the AGA’s findings. The 2019 survey had a margin of error of +/- 3.1%.

Does the Casino Industry do more to Create or Hurt Jobs?

According to the AGA, the most recent job statistics, which come from Oxford Economics, are from 2017. The industry “directly employed more than 361,000 people” in 2017. Those employees earned more than $17 billion in wages, benefits, and tips in 2017, for an average of about $47,000 in total compensation.

The industry supports hundreds of thousands of indirect jobs nationwide, including those involved with the rapidly growing online betting industry.

There are no figures on the number of jobs the nascent U.S. online betting industry directly employs or indirectly supports. The trade group iDEA Growth found that in New Jersey, which legalized iGaming in 2013 and is by far the nation’s top market, about 6,600 “new jobs” were created by online gambling.

The retail side of gambling in New Jersey has faced major challenges in recent years. According to recent employment figures from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, the Atlantic City casinos employed 26,450 people in February 2020. According to the report, that was down from 27,651 a year prior. At the end of 2013, prior to a string of casino closures, 32,457 people were employed by the industry. The figure fell to 22,005 in 2016 before rebounding greatly as rebranded casinos reopened and the online betting industry further developed. However, the trend is now reversing.

Casino visitation nearly doubles since 2001

It’s well known that casinos offer much more than gambling, as the AGA found last year that a quarter of casino visitors went “without gambling at all.”

Polling data from last year found that about 105 million Americans visited a casino “in the past year.” That was up from 53 million nearly 20 years ago, according to the AGA.

National poll results the AGA released in October indicate that the 105 million was an increase over 2018.

“The share of American adults that visited a casino in the last year jumped to 44 percent in 2019, up nine percentage points [from]  2018,” the AGA said in October about a poll conducted the previous month. “This trend looks to continue as almost 124 million American adults —49% of the U.S. adult population— say they will visit a casino to gamble over the next 12 months, up 20 million from 2018.”

The COVID-19 pandemic ensures that 2020 will see casino visitation plummet.

The 124 million visitation estimate from last fall could be due to the adoption of sports wagering, which has drawn many new customers to casinos across the country.

In the two years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturned the federal prohibition on sports wagering, about $1.5 billion has been won off sports bettors.

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