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How casinos would help Sullivan County

May 28, 2014

By James B. Huntington

As a result of last November’s election, there will be one or two casinos, almost certainly as parts of large resorts, opening in the Catskills in 2016. If one or two end up being built in Sullivan County, what effect might they have on jobs and joblessness here?

Each month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases county employment and unemployment data, which is not seasonally adjusted. As of March, Sullivan County had a civilian labor force of 32,224, with 29,512 employed and 2,712 unemployed, for an 8.4% unemployment rate.

If there were one casino resort built in Sullivan, how might these numbers change? Let us use the following assumptions:

- The resort would have 1,110 guest rooms, matching the EPR Properties proposal for the site of the Concord Resort Hotel in Kiamesha Lake.

- The number of permanent jobs at the resort, which would have a large casino and many other amenities, would equal the industry norm of one position per hotel guest room.

- Jobs elsewhere in the county would break even, with existing business decline offset by new opportunities created.

- 25% of resort jobs would be filled by new arrivals moving into the county.

- A total of 75% of resort jobs would be filled by county residents, including the new arrivals. (The remainder would go to commuters living outside the county.)

- All jobs formerly held by resort employees would be backfilled by otherwise unemployed people living in the county.

- Each new arrival would bring in one other adult, half of whom would join the labor force.

When we implement all of these, the Sullivan County civilian labor force increases by 416 people, and 832 more have jobs. That adjusts the numbers to a labor force of 32,640, with 30,344 employed, 2,296 unemployed, and 7.0% unemployment.

How about two such resorts? Continuing with the estimates above would bring our county’s labor force to 33,056, its people with jobs to 31,176, its unemployed to 1,880, and its jobless rate to 5.7%, a more dramatic improvement.