“I’m gonna raise a fuss, I’m gonna raise a holler. About workin’ all summer just to try and earn a dollar…”
-Summertime Blues by Eddie Cochran
Well, at least a young Mr. Cochran had a summer job to complain about, which is more than can be said for many teenagers and young adults these days.
For most American youth, a summer job is a rite of passage, a way to be introduced into the workplace. And for the most part, these jobs were readily available, at least during my formative years in a Boston suburb during the early 1980s-temporary, low-paying jobs at factories, hospitals, retail establishments, town services-this list was truly endless.
Flash forward a few decades to the 2010s and these jobs have largely disappeared, to the point where my nieces, growing up in the same hometown I did, are unlikely to ever secure summer employment, at least as high schoolers. It’s no secret where these jobs have gone; technology and outsourcing have eliminated many, the others are being held by people glad to work whatever jobs they can in today’s cratered economy.
But in Massachusetts at least there is a lifeline for those seeking employment of any sort-the casino industry. Indeed, if there is one thing casinos are good at, it is generating jobs of all shapes and sizes. The 2011 State of the States report issued by the American Gaming Association shows that close to 350,000 people were directly employed by the gaming industry in 2010. In jurisdictions that allow major casino resort development-the type that was approved by the Massachusetts Legislature last year-the gaming industry tends to be one of the leading employers in the state. Supporters of this casino-enabling legislation often listed job creation as one of the main reason they pushed for gaming.
All of which makes the current lack of forward momentum for the Massachusetts gaming industry all the more perplexing. Legislation calls for four casino resorts spread across the state, but there remains a lack of interest in many communities for gaming development, despite the jobs and tax dollars such projects would provide. It looks like the gaming industry may have to settle for development in cities such as Boston and Springfield which are more accepting of casinos as part of the urban renewal process, which may not necessarily be a bad thing.
But the fact that casino development still can’t find purchase at promising sites in more affluent areas has to rankle gaming executives. It smacks of close-minded NIMBY (not in my backyard) thinking that the gaming industry should have outgrown by now. After all, for every negative claim about the impact of a casino resort on a community (crime, congestion, etc.), the industry can counter with numerous examples of commercial and tribal resorts that are upstanding business citizens that have met and exceeded tax revenue and job creation expectations.
Who is to blame for this disconnect? As much as I would like to lay all the responsibility on outside forces, I think the gaming industry has to shoulder some of the burden here. The public relations budgets at most properties are somewhat less than the amount of cash devoted to marketing, and as such, the reporting of good deeds gets drowned out by promotions emphasizing fun, excitement, gambling-the types of things likely to turn-off more conservative, home-owning community members.
Until some sort of balance is achieved here, those local citizens most in need of the tax dollars and jobs from casino development will likely be on the outside looking in, and still trying to earn a dollar.