Study lauds casinos on jobs

New cards on table

Casinos are a terrific source of good-paying, benefit-rich, blue-collar jobs, the Labor Resource Center of the University of Massachusetts at Boston has found.

The center’s new report – “Gaming in Massachusetts: Can Casinos Bring ‘Good Jobs’ to the Commonwealth?” – finds that for workers without a college education, casinos and their related enterprises pay higher salaries and provide more generous benefits than non-gaming jobs.

The report lands at a pivotal time for Massachusetts, where legislators and residents have been debating the possibility of allowing casinos for two contentious years.

Last week, one of the state’s leading casino critics, former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, left his powerful post.

He’s been replaced by Rep. Robert DeLeo, a Democrat who has expressed a willingness to consider legalized gaming in Massachusetts.

The center’s latest report looks at the quality of casino-related jobs in Connecticut, Louisiana, Nevada, New Jersey and New York, five states that currently allow legalized gaming.

The study began two years ago, center director Dr. Susan Moir said, when casinos first emerged as a possible new industry for Massachusetts.

As the nation has evolved from a manufacturing-based economy to a service-oriented one, many well-paying, blue-collar jobs have vanished. The center routinely explores that impact of that transition.

“We always ask the question, ‘Where will working-class people work, and what kind of lives will working-class people have?’ ” she said.

For this particular study, center researchers studied 10 years of casino job data, and found that, for the legions of Americans whose formal education ended in high school, Moir said, “these are good jobs.

“They allow workers to have good, solid middle-class lifestyles, to own homes and to send their kids to college,” she said.

And the fact that the pro-casino study is being released now, she said, is “a total coincidence.”

The study also finds that Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposal to license three resort casinos, which was killed by a DiMasi-led House last year, was unique in its efforts to address wages, benefits, training, mentoring, child care and worker protection.

The findings are sure to incite the wrath of casino opponents, who argue that casinos lower a region’s standard of living by attracting lots of low-wage casino jobs. Foes, including Attorney General Martha Coakley, also say the industry is a predatory one that encourages gambling, a highly addictive practice that leads to crime, distressed families, suicide and bankruptcy.

State leaders declined to comment on the study because they had not seen it at press time.

The study was paid for, in part, by the Construction Institute, a nonprofit association dedicated to improving the construction industry, and the Future of Work in Massachusetts project, which is funded by the University of Massachusetts’ President’s Office.