The Effect of Casinos on Local Labor Markets: A County Level Analysis

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Chad Cotti


The economic outcomes surrounding the dramatic spread of “Las Vegas” style casinos in the United States has become a point of great interest and inquiry both politically and academically. Prior research has tended to focus on regional studies and provided uniform conclusions regardless of differences in the nature of the community. Moreover, much of the previous empirical work fails to account for local level trends during estimation. By using a comprehensive data set on employment and earnings from across the US, and by including county-specific trends, this research hopes to alleviate these earlier concerns, as well as help reconcile differences in the early literature surrounding casino effects on related industrial sectors. Basic findings suggest that counties experience an increase in employment after a casino opens, but there seems to be no measurable effect on average earnings. More detailed analysis reveals that the effect on industries related to casinos is somewhat mixed, but in general mildly positive, as casinos provide a positive employment and earnings spillovers into the surrounding local community. Intertemporal estimation suggests that the casino effect changes over time, but also finds that time effects vary across sectors. Estimates of how overall effects vary across different population sizes find that employment growth is inversely related to county population. Finally, additional estimation finds little impact on employment levels in neighboring counties, although there are some small effects in certain industries.I would like to thank Scott Adams, Scott Drewianka, John Heywood, James Peoples, McKinley Blackburn, Keith Bender, Don Siegel, Gary Anders, Doug Walker, and Mike Wentz for their helpful suggestions.  I would also thank David Mustard and Earl Grinols for their help with the data.  Dain Johnson provided valuable research assistance.

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