Two hundred forty billion. Nearly a quarter-of-a-trillion dollars. That’s how much the gaming industry contributes to the U.S. economy each year.

In one of the many highlights of a jam-packed Global Gaming Expo 2014, the American Gaming Association released the results of a new Oxford Economics study showing the vast, positive economic impact of our industry on hundreds of communities across the country.

For the first time ever the study measures every facet of the casino gaming industry—commercial casinos and manufacturers and Native American casinos—as well as the industry’s significant ripple effect on the supply chain, including local businesses.

In addition to the $240 billion in economic activity gaming contributes—which is larger than the budgets of Texas and New York combined—gaming supports 1.7 million jobs. That’s more than the airline industry.

We also generate $38 billion in federal, state and local taxes—enough to pay the salaries of more than a half-million teachers.

We’ve known for a long time that our industry’s contributions have gone underestimated, but these numbers are bigger than even we anticipated.

Adam Sacks, who led the study for Oxford Economics, said casino gaming is “a vast industry that supports local communities across the country through business linkages and employment generation. Given the relatively high levels of taxes on the casino industry, it supports a wide range of government services as well.”

There was no better place to unveil the first-of-its-kind study than at G2E, the largest gathering of gaming industry professionals in North America. More than 27,000 people attended the show, a 3 percent increase from last year, and for the first time ever, a national cable channel, CNBC, broadcast live from the expo floor and conducted interviews with several leaders in our industry. As a result, the spotlight shone on G2E and the gaming industry brighter than ever.

For gaming to grow and attract new customers, it’s imperative that we highlight our industry’s positive economic impact. We face restrictive regulatory environments in states around the country that impede our ability to upgrade our facilities, to create new games that will attract younger patrons and to provide the best entertainment experience possible. Too often, gaming policies have been crafted by elected officials based on outdated stereotypes and tired myths, not on facts.

Through our “Get to Know Gaming” campaign, however, the AGA is changing perceptions of the gaming industry and paving the way for stronger partnerships—rather than punitive policies—that will allow our industry to adapt to increased competition and thrive. As the Oxford Economics study shows, the facts are on our side. The benefits we deliver are real.

In addition to solid economic data, we’re providing elected officials with additional evidence about Americans’ positive views of our industry. Earlier this year, two of the country’s top political pollsters found that the vast majority of American voters support gaming. Nine in 10 approve of gaming, and a record number view our industry more favorably than ever. Further, most understand that we generate jobs and tax revenue and boost small businesses.

It’s become clear that the views of policymakers must catch up to their constituents’ views of the gaming industry.

As one Mississippi official recently noted, “Mississippi has never truly acknowledged the gaming industry. Leadership has never done anything to hurt it, but they haven’t done anything to help it either.”

That sentiment rings true across the country. Yet our future success depends on strong partnerships with policymakers that allow us to innovate, reinvent and create more jobs.

In the wake of several casino closings, though, gaming critics are out in force with, “I told you so—gaming can’t save an economy.” Guess what? We agree. Instead of viewing gaming as a panacea to cure all economic ills, policymakers should view gaming as one piece of a multifaceted economic development strategy.

Communities benefit most from gaming when they build a diversified economy and partner with our industry to supplement their entertainment offerings. Understanding gaming’s proper role in smart economic development requires a different political approach to gaming and the rules that regulate it. Just like with any other business, basic economics apply to casinos.

With competition among casinos at an all-time high, regulatory environments that tie one hand behind the industry’s back prevent casinos from reinvesting and adapting to today’s changing consumer. As a result, it becomes more difficult for the industry to continue to add jobs and provide much-needed tax revenue.

Casino gaming is no longer a novelty. We are a highly competitive business uniquely capable of creating thousands of local jobs, supporting small businesses and partnering with communities. Through the “Get to Know Gaming” campaign, the AGA will continue to push back against critics and provide the facts, which show that communities that partner with gaming are making the right bet.

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