Five Years of Casino Gaming in PA

The slot machines first started chiming, whizzing and whirling at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs on November 14th, 2006.  Back then it was Pennsylvania’s first slots casino.  Today Mohegan Sun is one of ten casinos operating in the Keystone State, which are all offering a full complement of table games too. 

Casinos, Cards

PA casinos started rolling out table games in July 2010.

The first five years of casino gambling have been an economic success, according to state Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (R-Bucks).  “Many of my detractors said you’ll never raise a billion dollars out of this, but we’ve gone over $4-billion dollars in tax revenues to the state,” Tomlinson says.  Slot machines have actually raked in $4.6-billion dollars in tax revenue through last fiscal year, and table games added another $81.4-million dollars in tax revenue during their first year. 

Regardless of the statistics, state Rep. Curt Schroder (R-Chester) tells us casino gambling has failed to deliver on its promise of property tax relief.  “Maybe a couple hundred dollars in some places, in some parts of the state much less than that,” says Schroder, who chairs the House Gaming Oversight Committee.  “When you’re talking property tax bills of three, four, five thousand dollar and above in some areas, it doesn’t make a dent.” 

Last year, Pennsylvania homeowners shared in $776-million dollars of slots-funded property tax relief, which broke down to a statewide average of $200 bucks.  The amount varies by school district, though, and Sen. Tomlinson tells us poorer areas and senior citizens are especially benefitting.      

PA casinos employ 15,000 people, but there are concerns about potentially thousands of families being negatively impacted.  Five years ago, the Council on Compulsive Gambling in Pennsylvania averaged around 300 calls per month to its helpline.  “Since the first casino opened in November of 2006, our monthly helpline activity has increased,” says Council on Compulsive Gambling President Jim Pappas.  “We now average over 1,800 calls a month from within the state.”  3,025 people have also signed up for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s self-exclusion list.

Several more casinos could potentially come online in 2012, but the Gaming Board’s focus is shifting.  “It really is coming to the point where we’re becoming more of a regulator than an opening-type agency,” says PGCB spokesman Richard McGarvey.  While the gaming competition from surrounding states will be intense in the next five years, McGarvey says PA casinos are already responding with increased amenities.  “You’re now starting to see these casinos starting to add hotels, shopping centers, bowling alleys… That’s the direction they’re heading.”

Super Committee to Meet, Obama to Speak on Same Day

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction convenes for the first time on Capitol Hill this Thursday.   Only a matter of hours later, President Barack Obama will address Congress and the nation on jobs.  Republican Pat Toomey (R-PA) will be there for both events. 

Tapped by the Senate Republican Leader to serve on the bipartisan, bicameral super committee, the first-term Senator says it’s hard to overstate the seriousness of Washington’s fiscal problems.  “We are running annual deficits of almost one and a half trillion dollars, we’re borrowing 40-cents of every dollar that we spend,” Toomey recently told a jobs roundtable in Tioga County. 

The super committee has until November 23rd to craft a plan that will save the federal government at least $1.5-trillion dollars over the next ten years.  “We can look anywhere in the federal budget that we can find an opportunity to have the savings, and we could include tax reform.  I think there are ways that we could reform the tax code that would generate strong economic growth,” Toomey says. 

Deficit reduction will dominate Toomey’s life for the next several months, but the issue is closely tied to the nation’s economic and employment woes.  While Toomey doesn’t know what to expect from President Obama’s jobs speech, he has his hopes.  “I’m hoping that the President will give us a strongly pro-growth message.  I hope that there’s some awareness, some realization that the huge deficit spending hasn’t worked.  The idea that the government can borrow and spend America to prosperity, that has failed,” Toomey said after his Tioga County event.    

The Joint Select Committee’s organizational meeting will be open to the public and the press.  President Obama’s jobs speech will precede the opening salvo of the NFL football season, and will be televised on all of the major networks.

Sen. Toomey, Protesters Talking Jobs

A team of unemployed workers and supporters is traveling the state to stage protests outside of US Senator Pat Toomey’s regional offices.  “I was let go for two reasons.  They happened to be corporate greed and the outsourcing of jobs,” says Dan Haney of Philadelphia.  The protesters say Toomey needs to focus his attention on creating jobs for the middle class. 

As the protests are taking place in his home state, Toomey spoke to the nation in the weekly Republican Address.  Its focus: jobs.  “Every day small business owners, job creators and entrepreneurs are bombarded with new regulations and higher costs, discouraging these employers from expanding their businesses and higher additional workers,” Toomey said.  In the five minute speech, Toomey expressed optimism while blaming the nation’s 9.1% unemployment rate, in part, on job-killing federal regulations

But the protesters say politicians like Toomey focus too much on CEOs and not enough of middle class families.  “They want to balance the budget on the working class’ back, and let corporations and CEOs and millionaires get more tax breaks, and put more money in their pocket,” Haney said in a telephone interview from an event outside of the Harrisburg federal building (pictured above). 

Toomey has recently been tapped for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (super committee).  In the GOP Address, Toomey said he will work to produce a plan that cuts government spending and creates and environment where entrepreneurs can thrive.

CareerBuilder Survey: Workers Report Burnout

Is ‘summer fever’ spreading in your office?  In a recent survey of employee productivity, CareerBuilder found that 26% of employers think their workers are less productive in the summer.  Some of the possible culprits: sunny weather, vacation plans and kids being home from school.

But there are other factors at play.  “Workers really have just been overworked.  They’ve had a lot more responsibility, and as a result we’re starting to see them become less productive,” said Mike Irwin, senior career advisor for 

30% of employers say workers are more productive today than when the recession began, and nearly half of employees report heavier workloads in the past six months.  77% of workers also say they’re “always” or “sometimes” burned out on the job.

“The productivity levels have increased over the last couple of years, but we can’t sustain this level without bringing more people in,” Irwin said.  His advice for employers: “Even if you think everything is going well in the office, get out there and see how people are feeling.”  Irwin says many people won’t say they’re overworked or stressed, because they’re afraid of losing their job. 

CareerBuilder surveyed more than 2,600 hiring managers and nearly 5,300 employees, between May 19th and June 8th to compile these results.  During the month of June, the total non-farm job count dipped by 2,600 in Pennsylvania.  The statewide jobless rate also rose from 7.4% to 7.6%.

Fewer Jobs, Higher Unemployment in PA

The statewide job count fell by 2,600 in June, and the unemployment rate rose to 7.6%.  That’s up from 7.4% statewide unemployment in May.  The state Department of Labor & Industry reports biggest hits came in the service providing supersectors.  For instance, 7,800 education & health services jobs were lost last month.  The financial activities supersector lost 2,000 jobs. 

The bright spot in Pennsylvania’s June jobs report comes from the goods producing supersectors.  Construction added 1,100 jobs.  Manufacturing added 2,000 jobs. 

Despite the net loss of jobs from month-to-month, Pennsylvania is still home to 46,400 more jobs today than this time last year.  Also, today’s jobless rate is still much better than last June’s 8.7% statewide mark. 

The nation’s June jobs report was similarly bad.  The nationwide unemployment rate now stands at 9.2%.

Industry-Backed Study Details Benefits of Marcellus Shale Boom

Pennsylvania is now a net exporter of natural gas, and has the potential to account for 17.5-billion cubic feet of natural gas, per day.  President of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, Kathryn Klaber, says that would be one-quarter of the nation’s natural gas production.  The new study, The Pennsylvania Marcellus Natural Gas Industry: Status, Economic Impact, and Future Potential, was conducted by Penn State researchers, and commissioned by the Marcellus Shale Coalition.    

Kathryn Klaber says PA’s shale industry has blown its projections out of the water.  “At the beginning of 2010, it was projected that Pennsylvania would be producing a billion cubic feet equivalent  per day by the end of 2010, and we saw that it was double that.”   

The study also projects that Marcellus Shale development could support 156,000 PA jobs this year, and more than 256,000 PA jobs by 2020.  “Every dollar that’s invested in building one of these wells involves more people to do that work, to run the equipment, and to do everything throughout the supply chain,” Klaber said. 

But, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center contends those jobs numbers are overstated.  “Overall, we welcome the gas industry’s contribution to Pennsylvania’s economy, but with this study, the industry continues to overstate the economic benefits and underestimate the costs of increased drilling in the Marcellus Shale,” PBPC director Sharon Ward said in a statement. 

The study is being released less than a week after the governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission voted for a series of 96-recommendations, including a local impact fee.  “The industry and the Marcellus Shale Coalition has been very clear of its support of an impact fee that’s competitive, that’s styled to address the unmet needs of local governments,” Klaber said in an interview with Radio PA.

State Capitol Facing North Office Building

PA’s Industry Partnerships Program Now Permanent

The Industry Partnerships program attempts to match skilled workforce training to the industries and jobs that exist in the Keystone State.  Supporters say it will help to fill the gap that exists between the skills employers need and the skills that are available in the workforce.  “There’s nothing worse in the world than to train somebody for a job that doesn’t exist,” says Tony Ross, president of United Way of Pennsylvania.  Ross says that Governor Tom Corbett’s signature on SB 552 codifies the program, thus improving its long-term viability.

Mike Brubaker

State Sen. Mike Brubaker (R-Lancaster)

The program dates back to 2005, and the Department of Labor & Industry reports that some 118,000 people have received training since that time.  “More than 6,300 businesses have taken part in more than 80-partnerships throughout the state,” adds State Senator Mike Brubaker (R-Lancaster).  Brubaker was the prime sponsor of SB 552.  Pennsylvania’s Industry Partnerships program is also becoming a model for the rest of the nation. 

The new state budget includes about $1.6-million dollars for the program’s administration.  Tony Ross tells us another of the benefits is that it covers such a broad swath of industry.  “Everything from health care, to manufacturing, to Information Technology – you name it – any industry can access this opportunity.”

Both the State House and Senate voted unanimously to make the Industry Partnerships program permanent.  Governor Tom Corbett signed it – along with 45 other new laws – on Thursday.

Marcellus Shale

Marcellus Shale Job Creation Numbers Questioned

A new report questions the number of jobs created by the Marcellus Shale boom between 2007 and 2010. The “not so mighty Marcellus” might describe the results of their analysis according to Dr. Stephen Hertzenberg, Executive Director of the Keystone Research Center.  He says their review shows less than 10,000 jobs created rather than the 48,000 reported in recent statements and commentaries.

Dr. Hertzenberg says job creation differs from new hires, because you also have to look at quits, firings and retirements.  He says you have to look at both sides of the employment ledger.

Dr. Hertzenberg says the Center is trying to get the record straight because when people have a distorted picture of how many jobs are being created by Marcellus, that’s “a lousy foundation for good policy.” He adds Pennsylvania should develop a Marcellus shale economic development policy that includes training and placement of Pennsylvania workers in Marcellus jobs and invests in industries that supply the natural gas drilling industry.

Kathryn Klaber, Executive Director of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, questions the timing of the report, saying it doesn’t add to the debate.

Klaber says it’s a good thing to be creating these jobs and it makes no sense to be quibbling over the numbers, when there’s widespread agreement that the  numbers are large.

Klaber says there are a lot of different ways to look at these jobs. There are jobs in the core industry; directly in drilling and mid-stream development.  There are thousands more jobs, according to Klaber, in industries that support those jobs through the supply chain.

Klaber says Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry statistics show unemployment in the counties with Marcellus Shale development remains below the state average. She says the most important thing “we can do is keep our eye on the ball related to the natural gas industry and what it could mean for the state’s economy.” She says there are incredibly good jobs being created, making it an integral part of a rather sluggish economy.

Pennsylvania continues to add jobs

Pennsylvania continues to add jobs,  and the latest unemployment numbers continue to show improvement.  Pennsylvania’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for April was 7.5%,  down from 7.8% in March and 1.3 percentage points lower than April of 2010.  The year-to-year decline was the largest since June 1987.

Mark Price, Labor Economist with the Keystone Research Center, says Pennsylvania  has been adding around 6 thousand jobs a month on average.  He says the April report is a very good one on all fronts, but the state still has a very long road back to something approximating full employment, and conditions that will generate some wage and income growth.   Price says one potential drag on the recovery is possible job losses in the public sector due to budget cuts.

The national jobless rate for April was 9.0%, up from 8.8% in March.

A breakdown of Pennsylvania’s unemployment numbers is available at the Department of Labor and Industry’s website at