BOSTON — A new study of casino gambling backs up much of the economic benefit estimates Gov. Deval Patrick touts in his plan to license three resort casinos — projections instrumental in earning the support of mayors across the region.
The report, done for the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce by a national consulting firm, found that by 2012 three resort casinos would generate about $2.1 billion in economic activity and as much as $429 million a year in new state tax revenue. The governor contends casinos would create more than $2 billion in spending and at least $400 million in new revenues.
The 129-page report, released yesterday, also finds that up to 21,000 permanent jobs would be created, close to the 20,000 Patrick estimates.
However, the report said that Patrick overestimated the number of construction jobs that would be created. While Patrick contends building three casinos would create 30,000 construction jobs, the chamber put the number at between 10,000 and 11,500.
Ralph Martin, chamber chairman, said the $80,000 report was meant to "inform" the debate with an independent look at job and revenue projections.
"We thought the chamber's role was to illuminate the debate with the most objective study that we could fund and generate," Martin said.
Martin said the chamber didn't take a position but said casino gambling is ultimately "about revenue, it's about jobs, it's about the unintended consequences that could be visited on those communities where resort casinos could be embedded."
Patrick, speaking on his monthly radio program minutes after the study was released, called the findings "good news." The governor has criticized House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, a casino gambling opponent, for prejudging his proposal without giving it a timely public hearing. A hearing was recently scheduled for March 18, about five months since Patrick filed his casino legislation.
The report's findings buoyed casino supporters.
Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, who's taken a leading role in the pro-casino movement, said the new report reaffirmed her belief that the casino plan would be an economic boon.
"It's great to have a confirmation of the impact of these resort casinos on jobs and revenue benefits," Driscoll said.
Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk, who like Driscoll sides with the pro-casino Coalition for Jobs and Growth, said the study "legitimizes" Patrick's plan and proves three resort casinos can provide cities and towns with badly needed revenue as they face critical budget shortfalls.
"It's (the chamber) pretty neutral, and the fact that their numbers came in as close as they did is positive," Kirk said.
The report was written by UHY Advisors FLVS Inc., which uses accountants and other analysts for consulting, forensic accounting and risk management services.
James Bohn, a UHY executive and report analyst, said about "five or 10 of 50" sources used in the report were funded by the casino industry, something that Sen. Susan Tucker, D-Andover, a casino opponent, said undermines the report's credibility.
"These are the same old numbers the casino industry throws around that have very little validity," Tucker said.
The chamber report comes nearly three weeks after the Patrick administration awarded a $189,000 contract to New Jersey-based Spectrum Gaming LLC to independently consider the plan. Spectrum has casino clients and its choice has been criticized by casino opponents.
Rep. John Keenan, one of many undecided lawmakers, said even with all of the new reading material, he's still undecided. The Salem Democrat said he is waiting for the March 18 hearing, when lawmakers will get to cross-examine casino supporters and opponents.
Keenan said he's sensitive to cities and towns' revenue needs, but also is aware that casinos would permanently change the state.
"It's a substantive change in the environment if we go down this road," Keenan said. "There's no turning back."