What if I told you that there is a major company looking to relocate its business to Alabama, and would bring with it more than 12,000 permanent, good-paying jobs to some of the state’s most impoverished counties?
What if I told you that in addition to the 12,000 permanent jobs, there would also be thousands of temporary construction jobs, and thousands more permanent jobs at associated businesses?
And what if I told you that for this jobs bonanza, the state of Alabama would pay a whopping zero dollars in economic incentives, but would instead be allowed to impose significant taxes on this business and recoup nearly $1 billion annually in tax revenue to pay for college scholarships and healthcare expansion?
This is the gambling deal that is currently on life support — the grand bargain that would see the state allow eight casino locations, a statewide lottery and encourage a compact between the state and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
That’s right, life support. Not dead. That prognosis will surprise many, because it surprised me on Tuesday when I spoke to officials with both the Poarch Creeks and the traditional casinos. They believe there’s still a chance to pass it — so much so that they’ve pushed forward with a new economic impact study for the areas where new casinos will be allowed.
That study won’t be completed for several more days, but they did share with me the job projections connected with the plan.
Before I tell you what they are, I’d like to remind you that the Toyota-Mazda plant located near Huntsville announced it would bring about 4,000 jobs — the biggest auto plant in the state’s history — and we pretty much held a parade and gave the CEOs keys to every city in the state.
Well, check this out.
Within a few months of voters approving the gaming expansion, officials at VictoryLand and The Birmingham Race Course expect to be filling 5,300 jobs. That number could expand to more than 7,000 after a planned hotel is in place at the Birmingham location, and if live horse racing returns to the track — something that is very much part of the plans.
At the Poarch Creek facilities, officials expect to do even more hiring. According to Arthur Mothershed, the vice president of development and governmental relations, Windcreek Gaming would hire for approximately 2,500 permanent positions at a new facility in Jackson or Dekalb counties, another 2,000 approximately for expansion planned at the Mobile Greyhound Park and roughly 1,500 additional hires at its three current facilities.
And those aren’t minimum wage gigs we’re talking about here.
At the Windcreek facilities, no job pays less than $11.50 per hour, and many pay better than $25 per hour. Almost all include benefits.
It’s a similar story at VictoryLand and the Birmingham Race Course, where almost all employees make significantly above the minimum wage and all full-time positions include benefits.
Same for GreeneTrack in Greene County, which is expected to add somewhere between 500 and 1,000 new jobs during the initial expansion.
Start adding those jobs up, and really take a moment and think about it. No. Really think about it.
Imagine what a life-altering situation it would be if a company moved into the counties of Macon or Greene — two of the poorest counties in the state — and offered 4,000 people good paying jobs.
Imagine what we’d do if a car manufacturer announced tomorrow that it wanted to move to the state and employ 12,000 people. What would we pay in incentives and tax rebates? $1 billion? More?
Well, that’s the deal on the table, except instead of giving the company a billion, that company is going to give the state a billion every single year. On top of the payroll taxes.
Look, I get that gambling and casinos have their problems, and so many see them as just another tax on the poor and a bad way to pay a state’s bills. Those would be fantastic arguments — arguments that I’d likely agree with — if not for one small thing: We already have casinos and gambling in this state. In fact, of the eight proposed sites, only one would be new.
This bill is bringing gambling to the state in the same way Christopher Columbus discovered America.
What it would bring is some semblance of sanity to our gambling situation, and finally allow us to regulate it properly and recoup some revenue from its practice. And, oh by the way, it would also provide funds for thousands of kids to attend college, a massive expansion of broadband statewide, healthcare expansion in some form and the lowering of taxes.
It’s not clear right now just how much life is left in the bill, but I did find it interesting that none of the interested parties would entertain a discussion about a proposed lottery-only bill. They believe there’s still a chance for the grand deal, and that it’s a better deal for all involved.
When you look at the numbers, it’s hard to argue that.