Gaming the casino job numbers

Today’s Boston Sunday Globe features a front-page story by Sean Murphy questioning the Patrick administration’s claim that 30,000 construction jobs would be created if the governor’s proposal for three casinos were approved.  The Globe story calls Patrick’s jobs estimate "excessively optimistic," and backs up that contention with plenty of evidence from similar projects that generated far fewer hard-hat jobs.

The story should come as no shock to CommonWealth readers, since it sounds an echo of the questions raised in contributing writer Phil Primack’s story for the winter issue of the magazine, published in late January.  In "Playing the Numbers," Primack threw plenty of cold water on the idea of 10,000 construction jobs per casino, citing figures from construction of the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and from a huge expansion project at Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun casino to suggest that the administration was wildly overstating the number of construction jobs that could be created.  The 2006 announcement of a planned $740 million expansion at Mohegan, for example, said the project would generate 1,400 construction jobs, less than 15 percent of the number of jobs the administration claims would be generated by the construction of a $1 billion casino.

The CommonWealth story raised doubts not only about the construction jobs numbers, but also questioned the administration’s claims concerning the scale of gambling operations that the regional market could support and the touted spillover benefits on the local economy.

Patrick’s proposal faces a tough audience in the House of Representatives, where Speaker Sal DiMasi remains wary of casinos.  Meanwhile, Rep. Dan Bosley, who chairs the economic development committee that will hold hearings on the bill, is the Legislature’s staunchest opponent of expanded gambling.  Bosley has long questioned the economic benefits claimed by casino proponents.  The CommonWealth story and today’s Globe report aren’t likely to help the administration’s cause when he gavels the hearings to order.