We Were Right About the Casino?

March 13, 2020

Recent news about the Resorts World Catskills caused me to go back and look at the “Casino Study” Capacity did in 2014. We were engaged by the Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development to conduct a study that fairly compared 6 counties to see which casino location would benefit New York State the most.

Sullivan had the highest average when ranking the 23 criteria that rolled up to the 3 main legislative objectives, as well as indirect and ancillary influences. The study was used by Sullivan County assist in winning the right to host a casino.

One of the areas of the study that garnered some critique was our conclusion that there was plenty of unemployed/under-employed workforce to staff the Casino without “everyone running out of workers”. Of course a large portion of this “available” workforce was “non-participating” (45%). Non-participating workers are largely presumed ready, willing, and able but discouraged and not working because it is “not worth it” to them. So while clearly there was a workforce, they were not going to work for current salaries being offered by current employers.

When you layer this with the fact that Sullivan County had the lowest per capita income of the 6 counties and the Casino estimating 20% plus increase in that income… they (the Casino) were not going to have a problem but clearly there would also be a shift of current employees from their current employer if that employer did not “come up to the new par”. This concept was also expressed in our subsequent labor force study.

In conclusion, did the casino have a hard time finding enough people on opening day? Of course they did. Did local employers lose employees to the casino? Of course they did. This is the normal shift that occurs during normal economic development. The only thing that made it feel more acute was how fast said economic development happened. But, there were enough employees in the labor shed.

The second area we received disbelieve on was ranking Sullivan higher than Orange for good location. Most thought Orange was better (including many casino developers) because of its proximity to New York City. Our research showed that most people do not actually visit their closest gambling venue most frequently. In fact, vacation and gambling trips tend to average over 50 but under 100 miles (one way). Mileage of course skews higher when an overnight stay is contemplated as it would be in most resort casinos.

Resorts World Catskills improving financial results are seeming to prove this out as well, but time will tell. What we know for sure however is the positive impact of the casino to the area over the last 2 years! I will discuss that in more detail in a future post.