Casino employment increases in La.

While the number of people working in Louisiana’s commercial casinos increased from 2012 to 2013 and taxes paid to state and local governments also went up, a new report noted that employee wages, benefits and tips dropped during that time.

According to the American Gaming Association, the number of permanent full-time workers in the state’s 19 casinos rose to 15,706 in 2013 from 15,061, a 4.3 percent increase. This includes employees at the 14 riverboat casinos, four racetrack casinos and Harrah’s land-based casino in New Orleans.

That was enough to rank Louisiana fourth nationwide for casino employment behind Nevada, New Jersey and Mississippi.

Tax revenue paid to local and state governments topped $587.5 million in 2013, a 1.4 percent increase over the 2012 total of nearly $579.5 million.

But employee wages, benefits and tips dropped by 4.5 percent during that period, going from $631 million in 2012 to nearly $602.7 million in 2013.

Wade Duty, executive director of the Louisiana Casino Association, an industry group for the state’s riverboats, blames the drop on a decrease in tips to casino employees. “Tips have not robustly rebounded,” he said.

While New Jersey and Mississippi have seen casinos close during 2014, putting thousands of employees out of work, Louisiana workers have largely been lucky, Duty said.

“We’ve seen some realignment and restructuring, but that’s mainly been job consolidation through attrition,” he said. In late 2013, the Belle of Baton Rouge and Hollywood Casino Baton Rouge got permission from the Louisiana Gaming Control Board to trim a total of 225 jobs through attrition.

Duty said the Louisiana gambling market is “holding its own,” even though the revenue growth hasn’t kept up with the new casinos entering the market, such as L’Auberge Baton Rouge and Margaritaville in Bossier City. The Golden Nugget in Lake Charles is set to open at the end of the year.

“The properties operating now are solid,” he said. “They’re all healthy and paying their own way.”

Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter @TCB_TheAdvocate.