Communities Benefit Most from Gaming When They Build a Diversified Economy

In the wake of several casino closings in Atlantic City, gaming critics are out in force with, “I told you so — gaming can’t save an economy.” Guess what? We agree. Instead of viewing gaming as a panacea to cure all economic ills, policymakers should view gaming as one piece of a multifaceted economic development strategy.

Communities benefit most from gaming when they build a diversified economy and partner with our industry to supplement their entertainment offerings.

Just last month, for example, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review proclaimed “neighbors, communities big winners” on the five-year anniversary of the opening of Rivers Casino, which has created 1,800 jobs and generated $745 million in tax revenue over that period.

No one would argue that casino gaming is the centerpiece of Pittsburgh’s economy, yet the city is reaping tremendous economic benefits from casino gaming.

Even in Las Vegas, where gaming is returning to pre-recession levels, political and business leaders consistently focus on diversifying Nevada’s economy.

Not only does Las Vegas lead the nation in the number of business meetings it hosts, but its downtown neighborhood is being transformed and is quickly becoming a hub for high-tech start-ups. And Tesla recently became the latest, largest addition to Nevada’s burgeoning clean-energy sector.

Understanding gaming’s proper role in smart economic development requires a different political approach to gaming and the rules that regulate it. Just like with any other business, basic economics apply to casinos.

With competition among casinos at an all-time high, restrictive regulatory environments pose hurdles to casinos that must reinvest and adapt to today’s changing consumer to continue to add jobs and provide much-needed tax revenue.

Casino gaming is no longer a novelty. We are a highly competitive business uniquely capable of creating thousands of local jobs, supporting small businesses and partnering with communities. Leaders who embrace the next generation of casino gaming are placing the right bet.

Geoff Freeman is president and CEO of the American Gaming Association.

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