Manual Just One More Hand: Life in the Casino Economy

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Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services. Economic literature: papers , articles , software , chapters , books. Collin G. How are businesses in the tourism district chapter 7 supposed to take advantage of Internet gambling? Even if the casino houses themselves will profit from e-gambling, the impact on jobs, and therefore the local economy, is questionable.

Since New Jersey casinos are owned by large corporations, holding companies, or private equity firms, there is no reason to believe that any added profits will be reinvested locally in Atlantic City—or even New Jersey. Further, as often happens with technological innovation, the new jobs may require very different skills than many of the lost jobs, making smooth transitions between labor markets difficult.

Tending to a computer server is not the same as interacting with customers. Sliding down a slippery slope, one can imagine virtually empty casinos alongside warehouses full of computer servers tended by a small group of electronics specialists. If e-gambling is the next Schumpeterian innovation, it may eventually crowd out the older industry and many of the existing casinos with them.

While the whales and other high rollers would continue to visit a few select resorts that combine gambling with lavish restaurants, clubs, shows, shops, and other attractions, the middle and low end of the market could be hollowed out. Tax revenue has been far lower than expected. Consequently, the investment bank Morgan Stanley has already lowered its projections about the profitability of Internet gambling.

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Congress to outlaw e-gambling completely, with members of the American Gaming Association falling on both sides of the debate. New Jersey has also sought entry into sports betting, but this venture is in legal limbo. Meeting the deadline would have required an amendment to the state constitution, but the effort was stalled in the State Assembly. Exactly why is unclear. As other gaming revenue declined, interest was revived. In , the U. Undeterred, some political leaders continue to look for ways around the ban, pointing to states that ignore federal laws against marijuana use.

Fantasy sports are technically not considered gambling, and any income from fantasy sports wagers would not be subject to the state gambling luxury tax but rather the ordinary corporate income tax. Sports betting, if allowed to stand by the courts, probably cannot single-handedly turn around the prognosis for any one locale. Even if New Jersey succeeds in exploiting a loophole in PASPA, other states will follow quickly, so any advantage would be short-lived.

Just as a gambler looks to one hand, one pull on the slot handle, one spin of the wheel, or one toss of the dice to change his or her luck, the temptation for industry analysts and policy makers is to latch onto a quick fix to turn around the local economy. But we all know that we would probably be better off with diversified investments in our retirement portfolio rather than taking our savings to a casino.

The same is true for economic development. A diversified strategy that includes but does not fully rely upon gambling—or even the broader leisure and hospitality sector—makes more sense than quick fixes. Economist Oliver Cooke, editor of the South Jersey Economic Review , has studied the economic performance of thirteen similarly sized U.

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Nine of them diversified their economies during this period, becoming less reliant on a few key industries; these diversifying local economies demonstrated much better growth in employment and personal income than Atlantic City—which was the least diversified at both the start and the end of the period in question. Another important characteristic of diversified economies is that they can rely upon internal markets, meaning that local businesses provide goods and services to local residents.

This dynamic is reminiscent of the virtuous circle in the high road approach to economic development identified by David Gordon see chapter 3. Professional and business services, currently underrepresented in Atlantic City compared with faster-growing metropolitan areas, include several industries that could potentially expand in the local market. Personal services, particularly those designed to assist people working nonsocial hours, would also make promising investments.

Employees would not have to pass their children back and forth between caregivers.

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Exports are also critical. So can labor-intensive light manufacturing, done on a small scale. From its early history, Atlantic City has prospered when it has used the comparative advantage of its beachfront location to promote tourism. These days, however, its location provides a potential new edge in renewable energy. Researchers there identify a range of jobs stimulated by the wind power industry, from electrical engineers to metal workers to electronics assembly. Former casino workers would need retraining to take advantage of such opportunities, thus programs should be developed to assist with this process.

Unlike many casino jobs, the occupations listed by PERI are primarily gendered male.

Just One More Hand: Life in the Casino Economy

On the one hand, such job opportunities would alleviate the concerns expressed by former poker dealer Lena that there are few opportunities in Atlantic City for young men like her son. On the other, training women for these occupations would give them the chance to break down barriers. The organization Environment New Jersey contends, however, that there has been little follow-through by the administration of Governor Christie in implementing the wind power initiative.

Once gamblers can play blackjack, slots, and poker legally from home, the normalization of gambling that Atlantic City helped initiate will be entrenched. With legal e-gambling on the horizon, every home will potentially be a casino—which seems to us a perfect metaphor for the current state of our economic lives. As we said in the opening of the book, risk is becoming a way of life. Those at the top of the income distribution knowingly make big bets but have the resources to recover from losses.

Hence, in the years since the Great Recession of —, economic recovery has been much faster for the wealthy one-percenters on Wall Street than for small businesses and working families on Main Street. Increasingly strapped working families are assuming risks without intending to gamble.

Many families who bought homes that have plunged in value, many students who took out loans in the belief that they were investing in their future, many retirees including those in the public sector who were promised pensions, and many employees who have given years of their lives to their employers and their customers are realizing that what once seemed like prudent choices have turned out to be gambles. Risk means lives characterized by insecurity and instability.

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The erosion of job quality that our participants described in their casino jobs are echoed throughout the global economy. The expansion of part-time, temporary, and contract labor that started incrementally several decades ago has surged during the so-called recovery from the Great Recession. Companies that once hired full-time workers with benefits now utilize more contingent labor. This means that people who lost full-time jobs during the recession sometimes find themselves working for their old employers once more, but now without any long-term job security or benefits.

The ability to build a life, one of the crucial elements of a good job and one of the functions a successful economy needs to fulfill, is slipping away for too many people, generating fear, anxiety, and anger. Economist Guy Standing terms this process precariatization. Precariatization also destabilizes a secure, work-based identity, our sense of ourselves. An economy is not simply a machine that produces goods and services. We live there. Living in the casino economy—one that is an endless stream of short-term financial transactions—is undermining the well-being of workers, their families, and their communities.

But a sustainable economy needs to be about more than short-term gains. As political economists, we agree with Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen, who argues that human flourishing should actually be the metric for economic success.


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Flourishing or well-being , according to Sen, is dependent upon both meeting basic needs and having meaningful choices about how to live. Good jobs, therefore, provide access to resources that enable people to achieve well-being as they define it. Positive relationships with managers and engaged collaboration with coworkers, Gallup finds, are the most important determinants of career well-being. Better public policies and institutions can help promote well-being at work. When they feel they are not being treated fairly, they lash out—usually at an employee who does not have discretion over ratings and rewards.

The truth of the exchange seems to have disappeared from many of the implicit social contracts that are necessary for a healthy economy. This trend has important implications for the casino economy and its workers. The truth of the exchange between employer and employee or between management and worker is less clear as casinos and other businesses themselves become products exchanged on global markets by hedge funds, private equity managers, and other financial interests.

This financialized economy is not conducive to long-term time horizons.


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  5. Instead, it is all about the next hand. We spoke with one frequent gambler and software entrepreneur who is developing and marketing a program to track the betting habits of online poker players. Such small businesses do benefit from the spillover of e-gambling, but the employment potential of such cottage industries is limited.

    Just One More Hand: Life in the Casino Economy

    The latter three have offered sports lotteries. In Delaware, for example, customers can buy tickets at lottery outlets to wager on the outcomes of professional football games.


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    Oregon eliminated their sports lottery in , and Montana focuses on fantasy sports.