The Point Molate casino developer, Upstream Point Molate, has cynically dangled the prospect of jobs to solicit support from even the most unlikely places in Richmond, including local church congregations.
The fact is that the first jobs would only be construction jobs, and they would not come on line until at least two years after the project receives all its approvals. That could easily be as much as 4-5 years with legal challenges. All of the construction jobs would go to union members, only a fraction of whom would likely be Richmond residents. What Upstream has never made clear to the public is that the initial project would be only about two-thirds of that for which it is seeking approval and would consist of a stand-alone casino, giant parking structure and a small hotel. The performing arts center, retail shops, conference center, restaurants and the balance of the hotel rooms would be delayed for a second phase that may or may not ever get built.
The operational jobs, which are the ones partially committed to Richmond residents in a murky and unenforceable agreement, would not come on line until at least 5 ½ years after approvals. If you accept the fact that a legal challenge is a virtual certainty, the first operational jobs would not come on line until probably 8-10 years from now. That’s not going to have much of an impact on Richmond’s current 17% unemployment rate.
People in Richmond, however, are so desperate for jobs that they will become advocates for a project that will have no effect on their plight for years, if ever.
As the story below notes, the jobs projection was made by Las Vegas-based Gaming Market Advisors, part of an environmental impact assessment team that like many in the profession are simply prostitutes to the developers and corporations who pay their bills. These are the same kind of consultants who wrote the now discredited oil spill response plans for several oil companies operating deep water wells in the Gulf of Mexico.
Whether you support this project or not, I would hope that you would support the truth, and that, unfortunately, has already gone away.
Critics question whether Point Molate casino-resort would really create 17,000 jobs
By Katherine Tam and John Simerman
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 07/06/2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Updated: 07/06/2010 05:38:16 PM PDT
It's a big number. A bold, five-digit jobs jackpot for a community beset by one of the Bay Area's highest unemployment rates.
The figure — 17,000 jobs — shows up in documents, fliers and at packed City Council meetings — wherever support musters for a big casino-hotel resort proposed for the old Point Molate Navy Fuel Depot in Richmond.
But is it accurate — or a bloated guess based on generous assumptions and deceptive economic "multipliers"?
The developer asserts the 17,000 figure is probably realistic, assuming an economic ripple for local vendors — including money that casino workers would spend. But critics and some gaming experts say the jobs estimate far exceeds the actual work force at most casino resorts.
In a city with 17.5 percent of its residents unemployed, just how many jobs the resort would create — and whether any other project there could come close to that number — has become a key issue in the political divide over the projected $1.2 billion plan.
Under a current agreement, the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians would hire Richmond residents for 40 percent of the nonmanagement casino and hotel jobs. Developer Jim Levine of Upstream Point Molate LLC pegged that pool at 3,000 workers, meaning at least 1,200 spots would be set aside for Richmond. Levine said the casino plans to go beyond that pledge to include 1,500 on-site workers in retail, entertainment and other services.
The tribe plans to tap older people for part-time jobs with prorated benefits, he said.
"We think the over-50 population in Richmond is a tremendous source of employee talent," Levine said.
The jobs estimate is the work of Las Vegas-based Gaming Market Advisors, which was hired for the environmental study. The same consultant estimates 9,300 direct jobs during construction — although those are not actual jobs, but "man-years" stretched out over a years-long construction schedule. A "man-year" is the work of a full-time employee, or two half-time workers, in a calendar year.
The casino plan calls for as many as 4,000 slot machines, 1,100 hotel rooms, a conference center, restaurants, shops, tribal headquarters, open space and trails.
Big resorts, small staffs
Some of the biggest resorts in the state employ far fewer people than what the environmental study for Point Molate suggests:
· The Pechanga Resort in Southern California, the state's largest, has a work force of about 4,300 to run its 188,000-square-foot gaming floor, 517 hotel rooms, spa, retail, restaurants, comedy club, theater and a ballroom where live championship boxing is broadcast by Fox Sports Network and HBO.
· Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln, Placer County, which features more than 3,000 slot and video machines, a 17-story hotel, outdoor amphitheater, restaurants and a spa, employs about 2,400.
· Cache Creek Casino Resort in Brooks, Yolo County, has about 2,400 on its payroll for a casino with 3,000 slot machines, a 200-room hotel and a 20,000-square-foot events center.
North America's largest gaming resort, Foxwoods in Connecticut, boasts 7,352 slot machines, four hotels, two theaters, 170,000 square feet of conference space, a museum, research center, restaurants, retail stores, spas and two golf courses. It employs 9,000.
Levine defends the Point Molate jobs estimate, saying that billion-dollar resorts hire thousands of workers.
Project opponents say supporters are simply repeating inflated estimates by the consultant.
"Those numbers are being used to generate support for the project throughout the community and within the union ranks," said Richmond resident Joan Garrett with Citizens for a Sustainable Point Molate.
"It's not fair when people are looking for a real job opportunity to dangle a huge and unrealistic carrot around. It just seems irresponsible."
The 17,000 jobs claim is based on a multiplier Contra Costa County uses to estimate broader economic benefit of local business. The 12,000 direct operational jobs include outside vendors for services such as food, laundry and transportation.
Critics and some industry experts question whether the calculation captures the whole picture, given that the casino could siphon spending money from local gamblers. If its main customer base is the East Bay, that could shift spending from other activities, reducing revenue and jobs from local restaurants and other employers.
The environmental consultant estimated $813 million in annual gaming revenue for the tribe and its investors.
"Those are the subtleties," said Bill Eadington, director of the University of Nevada's Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming. "The key variable is, where do the customers come from."
Estimates vary widely. William Thompson, a University of Nevada-Las Vegas public administration professor who has written extensively on gaming, figured Bay Area gamblers would contribute nearly two-thirds of annual gaming revenue for the resort.
In a study funded by card clubs that oppose it, Thompson predicted a net loss for the region of more than $200 million per year — local money sucked from the Bay Area economy.
Gaming Market Advisors, meanwhile, estimated more than half the gaming revenue would be redirected from other gambling outlets mostly in the Sacramento area and beyond.
A divided City Council in May extended the land disposition agreement with Upstream to April 2011 to finish negotiating details including financing and design. The sides are discussing added steps the tribe must take to maintain the local hiring numbers, Levine said.
Ultimately, the council must certify the final environmental study for the project to move forward. A vote is not expected until next year.
The city plans to hire a consultant this summer to lead public workshops on alternative ideas that Upstream would consider.
CASINO JOB PROJECTIONS
A consultant's estimates for employment to be generated by the Point Molate casino resort proposal:
Job sectors Direct Indirect Induced Total
Arts, entertainment and recreation 10,736 533 86 11,355
Accommodation and food services 766 50 263 1,080
Retail trade 381 39 460 879
Administrative and waste services 33 365 127 525
Professional -- scientific & tech 0 316 148 464
Health and social services 0 2 457 459
Agriculture, forestry, fish & hunting 0 7 10 17
Mining 0 2 2 4
Other 75 732 1,181 1,988
TOTAL 11,991 2,046 2,734 16,771
Direct jobs include casino resort positions and those at local hotels, restaurants, gas stations and other businesses where patrons spend.
Indirect jobs include employment at businesses that would serve the resort, including utilities, food distributors, uniform cleaners and suppliers.
Induced jobs are employees added when resort workers spend their new income, buying products and services in the community.
Source: Gaming Market Advisors study, March 2008