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Study: Minnesota rural areas benefit from casino

23 January 2007

ST. PAUL, Minnesota – (PRESS RELEASE) -- A detailed study released today by the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA) shows that rural Minnesota communities got the lion's share of a statewide $429 million in direct economic benefit from 2005 tribal casino employment in the state. The study was conducted by University of Minnesota researchers C. Ford Runge, Ph.D., Distinguished McKnight University Professor of Applied Economics and Law, and Barry Ryan, M.S.

Runge said rural Minnesota derived $285 million in direct economic benefit from tribal casino jobs in 2005, including $211 million in payroll, $65 million in employment taxes, $48 million in healthcare benefits, $10 million in retirement savings, and $4 million in other employee benefits such as child care accounts, education and tuition assistance.

"These figures are particularly significant when you compare casino jobs to other jobs in the rural Minnesota leisure and hospitality industry," Runge said. "Casino jobs represent 18% of the rural hospitality industry payroll. The benefits that accompany these jobs are significantly better than those offered by other hospitality industry employers in rural areas."

The study shows that the 9,100 rural casino employees are more likely than other leisure and hospitality workers to have healthcare and retirement benefits, paid time off, life or disability insurance, and other benefits such as flexible savings accounts and tuition assistance. Tribal casino workers are also more likely to be full-time employees and have higher starting wages than other leisure and hospitality workers.

Ryan noted that many rural casinos are the largest or second largest employers in their home counties. "In Pine and Mille Lacs Counties, for example, the Mille Lacs Band accounts for 17% of the total workforce payroll. In Cass County, the Leech Lake Band accounts for 13%. In Renville County, the Lower Sioux Community accounts for 12% of total wages paid. These wages represent a significant revenue source for county governments."

Statewide, the $429 million in economic benefits from 12,900 tribal casino jobs includes $335 million in payroll, state and federal employment taxes of $90 million, medical and dental healthcare benefits of $66 million, retirement savings of $15 million and more than $7 million in other benefits such as life and disability insurance, flexible childcare savings accounts and tuition assistance.

Runge noted that the slight decline in casino employment from 13,339 in 2000 to 12,900 in 2005 may reflect the maturity of the gaming market. Over the past six years, new capital investment on tribal lands has been in ancillary facilities such as hotels, marinas and golf courses, he said, and not in new or substantially expanded gaming operations.

Kevin Leecy, chairman of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa and a member of the MIGA Board, said the current study confirms what tribes have known for a long time -- that tribal casinos are a major economic asset to the rural areas in which they are located.

"We hadn't done a statewide economic impact analysis since 2000," Leecy said. "We wanted to focus on the impact of the jobs we have created because we've always believed that's one of the most important benefits of tribal gaming, especially in rural Minnesota." Leecy noted that Governor Rudy Perpich, who signed the state's first gaming compacts in 1989, saw tribal gaming primarily as a rural job creation tool.

"Governor Perpich wanted to create jobs that would last on the Iron Range and in rural Minnesota," he said. "We shared that vision, and we made it real. Today we have all the facts we need to prove that Indian gaming jobs are a positive force for economic prosperity throughout rural Minnesota."

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