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STATESIDE


Stateside Sharon Harris asks the big questions E


very month, I ask myself the same question before writing this column. With so many moving parts in today’s world, where should I start? It’s a dilemma because gaming intersects with every facet of American life and offers so much potential


material. Ask average people what really matters to them and most will give similar answers. They want to have a good job, stay healthy and have good medical coverage when sick, enjoy safety and security for their families and move America forward. Politicians call these “kitchen table” issues. Ironically,


these are probably the same responses that my parents and grandparents would have given 50 or 100 years ago. The gaming marketplace provides millions of direct and


indirect jobs. Unlike many other industries, American gaming is so complex that it can be all things to all people. Are you a people person? If so, gaming has diverse positions requiring public interaction. Think everything from dealer to restaurant server to hotel front desk staffer to host to security officer to parking attendant and on and on the list goes. Prefer working in the background? Those types can serve in the casino’s back-of-the-house operations or cook in a restaurant or repair and maintain areas on the property or work backstage at entertainment venues. That list also goes on and on. Can we expect this growth and opportunity to continue? Absolutely, says new AGA President/CEO Bill Miller. On the job since mid-January, his enthusiasm for gaming and its future was crystal clear during our first interview. Look for more details next month. Gaming has altered the economic and social landscape of


every community it has entered and uplifted average people with diverse opportunities. It is easy to quantify how casinos have influenced their communities. For example, how many new jobs are there? What about


8 MAY 2019


local businesses? Have their numbers increased? Has increased tax revenue supported infrastructure improvements? Are fewer people seeking assistance benefits? Are the streets safer with greater prosperity? Consider those one-industry American towns that


deteriorated almost into oblivion when the main factory shut down. The closures laid off factory workers, but also devastated peripheral businesses and services. For many whose families have lived and worked in one place for generations, it is not easy to pick up and relocate. But, again and again, once a casino appears on the horizon, the excitement builds, the daily pace quickens and the commercial heartbeat starts to pound. For example, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 90 minutes from my hometown near Philadelphia, was always a steel town. Generations of workers produced the steel that helped build the US. A college acquaintance of mine paid his college and medical school tuition by working weekends, holidays and summers at Bethlehem Steel. Steel production on that level vanished decades ago,


leaving a blighted city. Remember when Billy Joel sings of Allentown “shutting all the factories down?” Allentown is adjacent to Bethlehem and faced many similar problems. What rescued the region? Gaming. In May 2009, the Las


Vegas Sands (LVS) opened Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem and then built a hotel. They smartly incorporated the historic buildings and giant machinery into the design and usage.


Economic conditions immediately improved. Ten years


later, a hospitality affiliate of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians of Alabama will buy the complex of sites f or $1.3 billion. Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia experienced the same situation when their steel mills and coal mines closed. Opening casinos and tavern video gaming locations often saved people and businesses from ruin. Although many jurisdictions repeated that scenario in


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