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Job Quality at Massachusetts Casinos: Pay and turnover garner good marks while hiring equity needs improvement

Payroll data from each casino, from January 2022 through December 2022 used to assess patterns in hiring, compensation, mobility and turnover.

The institute's Economic & Public Policy Research team released their first report about job quality for state casinos’ employees. The study analyzed the conditions of the regional workforce in and around Massachusetts, as well as the payroll data from each casino, from January 2022 through December 2022 to assess patterns in hiring, compensation, mobility and turnover.

The report states that casino operators in Massachusetts are committed to their local economies and to their goals of recruiting and hiring a diverse workforce. Casino jobs offer flexibility in scheduling, low barriers to entry, and opportunities for career advancement for women and minority workers. Casino workers are well compensated in comparison to other jobs in the Accommodation and Food Services Industry and have far lower rates of turnover. While the analysis suggests that hiring is intentionally geared toward equity for women and minorities, representation across job levels for people of color has yet to be achieved. Minority workers are well represented at the junior staff, senior staff, and manager levels; however, they are also generally overrepresented at the service worker level and underrepresented at the director and executive levels.

"Labor markets in Massachusetts have changed substantially since the Expanded Gaming Act was passed in 2011, and casinos, along with other employers, face challenges in attracting and retaining employees that would have been difficult to imagine in the aftermath of the Great Recession. For that reason, it’s more important than ever that we study these issues,” said Mark Melnik, Ph.D. director of the Economic & Public Policy Research group and co-principal investigator of the SEIGMA project.

The report’s findings were presented today to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) as part of the ongoing work of the Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling Impact in Massachusetts (SEIGMA) group. The UMass Amherst School of Public Health & Health Sciences has been engaged by the MGC since 2013 to carry out a comprehensive, multiyear research project, believed to be the first of its kind, on the social and economic impacts of introducing casino gambling in Massachusetts. The Economic & Public Policy Research group at the Donahue Institute examines the economic impact side of the state’s casinos.

"The SEIGMA team has analyzed casino payroll data before, but those analyses focused on understanding the broader economic impact of expanded gambling. In this report, we turn our attention to the experience of casino employees," noted Thomas Peake, senior research analyst, and the study’s research lead.

“When the Legislature and Governor elected to legalize casino gaming, one of the major factors was to provide good paying and upwardly mobile jobs for residents of Massachusetts,” said Interim MGC Chair Jordan Maynard. “The casino properties are important partners of the MGC, the cities and towns they impact, and the state as a whole. We will continue working together to ensure jobs at these properties are good jobs that provide competitive pay and purpose for those employees.”

Regional Workforce Context

  • The commonwealth’s three casinos are located in very different parts of the state, with different casino characteristics, population demographics and labor markets which shape their respective workforces.
  • The compensation necessary to be considered a living wage in Massachusetts is one of the highest in the country.
  • The Accommodations and Food Services industry has higher turnover rates when compared to industries overall.

Casino Workforce

  • The casino industry is made up mostly of workers who are people of color (52.3%), though white workers are the largest racial group (32.6%).
  • Workers are mostly men (55.7%), full-time (67.6%) and hourly (87.1%), though there are major demographic differences across the three casinos.
  • The largest division by share of employees is Gaming and Recreation (37.9%), and most workers are at the junior staff level (45.5%).
  • Of the 6,601 employed in the industry, 60.9% do not make a living wage, with the median hourly wage at $28.31.
  • Massachusetts casino workers live throughout New England and are heavily concentrated in the Boston and Springfield areas.

Casino Job Quality

  • Recruitment and Hiring: Based on the employee population in 2022, casinos are meeting or exceeding their hiring goals for minorities, veterans and local workers, while hiring for women continues to fall short.
  • Wages: The Accommodation and Food Services Industry typically pays the minimum wage or less, but with Massachusetts’ historically high cost of living, the minimum wage is insufficient for most households to afford basic needs. Some 39% of workers across the casinos make at or above the living wage for their respective cost of living, but there is a large difference across individual casinos.
  • Job Security and Working Conditions: Compared to the Accommodations and Food Services Industry as a whole, turnover rates at casinos are surprisingly low (28.6% vs 115%, respectively).
  • Career Advancement: Very few workers were promoted in 2022 across the casino industry in Massachusetts (2.0%).
  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility: At the industry level, men make up the slight majority of workers across job levels, and the share of minority workers consistently becomes smaller as seniority increases.

Read the full report and snapshot.

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