Editorial: Prepping the casino workforce
Holyoke Community College President William Messner, front, signs agreements with interested casino developers during a meeting Monday at TD Bank in Springfield. Looking on in the background are Sydney Levin-Epstein, left, representing A.L. Cignoli Company; Peter Picknelly, center, a partner with Penn National Gaming, and Jeffrey Hayden, vice president of business and community services at HCC. JERREY ROBERTS
It’s good to see the state’s community college system getting out in front of the need to prepare workers for opportunities in a new industry coming to Massachusetts: casino gambling.
Whether you’re pro- or anti-casino, a gambling palace is coming to western Massachusetts — Holyoke, Springfield, West Springfield or Palmer — and bringing about 3,300 jobs with it.
Last week, a consortium of colleges and casino industry representatives signed a pact to establish the Massachusetts Casino Careers Training Institute at the state’s 15 community colleges. The agreement stipulates that casino developers will work with the institute on everything from creating an inventory of positions and establishing qualifications to recruiting, screening, training and job placement.
Area campuses, including Springfield Technical Community College, Holyoke Community College and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, as well as nonprofits such as career centers, will all offer training.
The institute will use the same gaming curriculum employed by Atlantic Cape Community College, which has been training workers for Atlantic City casinos for decades.
With the state’s unemployment rate at 6.5 percent and about three-quarters of unemployed Massachusetts residents having less than a four-year degree, according to the state labor department, there is a need and a market for this training.
It’s too early to tell what jobs a casino will bring to the area, but national numbers are instructive. About 131,000 people now work in the casino industry in the U.S. The median hourly wage is $11.30, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
About 33 percent of the jobs are in personal care, a category that includes casino dealers, porters and game supervisors, among other positions; 21 percent are in food preparation and services; 11 percent are in sales; 9 percent are in office administration; 8 percent are in protective services; and 6 percent are in building grounds, cleaning and maintenance.
The remaining 12 percent of jobs are in departments that include management, finance, transportation, production and arts, design, entertainment, media and sports.
The president of Holyoke Community College said he hopes to have a casino training program up and running by 2015, around the time the first casinos are expected to be opening in Massachusetts.
Amazon tax pact
Well, it was nice while it lasted — at least for consumers — but come November, Massachusetts residents will start paying sales tax on purchases made through online retail giant Amazon.com.
As much as anyone hates to pay more money for anything, tacking state sales tax onto Amazon purchases is the right thing to do. Amazon has been enjoying an unfair advantage over brick-and-mortar Bay State businesses that have had to charge the tax. As many merchants in the state have said, the arrangement amounted to an automatic 6.25 percent discount for online sellers they couldn’t match.
The deal struck by Amazon and state policymakers is similar to ones Amazon worked out across the country. Amazon now collects sales taxes on purchases made in New York, California and Texas, and has agreed to start imposing levies in other states.
This leveling of the field isn’t necessarily bad news for residents’ wallets. There are a number of benefits to collecting sales taxes on Amazon purchases.
For one, the National Conference of State Legislatures estimates Massachusetts lost about $268 million in revenue by not collecting taxes through Amazon.
After signing the deal in early December, Amazon announced plans to open warehouses and offer faster shipping in areas where tax disputes had previously prevented it from doing so.
The company plans to add hundreds of high-tech jobs in Massachusetts. Amazon will still offer competition to local stores, but at least these businesses will be on equal footing when it comes to taxes.