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Study touts $1 billion benefit of area casinos |

Study touts $1 billion benefit of area casinos

Tony LaRussa
| Tuesday, February 7, 2012 12:00 a.m

Casino gambling in Southwest Pennsylvania supported 6,700 jobs in 2010 and had an economic impact of more than $1 billion, according to a nationwide study released on Monday by a trade organization for the gaming industry.

While the study touted the positive economic benefits of casinos, it did not address the negative impact they can have on a community, an economist said.

The study looked at the economic impact of 566 casinos in 22 states, finding that nationally, gaming operations accounted for $125 billion in spending and nearly 820,000 jobs.

Pennsylvania’s 10 casinos had an economic impact of more than $4.8 billion and supported nearly 30,000 jobs, according to the study commissioned by the American Gaming Association.

“I haven’t had a chance to review the data (contained in the study), but I would expect any study produced by the gambling industry to overstate the benefits and understate the social costs,” said Robert Strauss, a professor of economics and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University.

Strauss said some of the literature on casino gaming he has reviewed indicates that in addition to increasing addictions to gambling, it often hurts people who can least afford it, such as the poor and senior citizens.

Casinos also can take revenue away from organizations such as churches and volunteer fire companies that provide services by raising money through bingo games, raffles and other small games of chance. “For a study to be truly comprehensive, it has to look at both the negative as well as the positive impacts,” Strauss said.

Dennis Davin, director of Allegheny County’s Department of Economic Development, said that while he had not yet reviewed the study, he believes the River’s Casino on the North Shore has been a plus.

“I don’t know about the negatives, and there may indeed be some, but from an economic standpoint I think it has been positive in terms of creating temporary construction jobs as well permanent positions,” Davin said.

Davin said the county gets about $10.3 million a year in tax revenue the state collects from gaming operations to help fund economic development projects in Allegheny County. That money is particularly important in light of cuts in federal and state funding that has occurred as a result of the sluggish economy, he said.

“If we didn’t get that money from gambling, we’d be in pretty rough shape from an economic development standpoint,” Davis said.

The study found that in 2010, the Rivers Casino had a total economic impact in excess of $558.5 million in Allegheny County and supported more than 3,500 jobs. The Meadows Casino had a total economic impact of nearly $450 million in Washington County and was responsible for supporting more than 3,000 jobs.

Additionally, the two casinos resulted in an economic impact of more than $3.5 million in Beaver County and supported 13 jobs. Westmoreland County had an economic impact in excess of $5 million and 37 jobs as a result of local casinos, the study found.

Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff reporter. You can contact Tony at 724-772-6368, or via Twitter .

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