Mass. Casinos Have Majority Support, WBUR Poll Finds

An artist's rendering of MGM's proposed resort-style casino in Downtown Springfield (Courtesy)

An artist’s rendering of MGM’s proposed resort-style casino in Downtown Springfield (Courtesy)

BOSTON — A week after the state’s highest court cleared the way for a repeal of the casino law to go on the November ballot, a new WBUR poll (topline, crosstabs) suggests that gambling proponents would begin such a highly anticipated voter initiative with clear popular support.

Fifty-six percent of respondents said they approve of locating casinos in Massachusetts, while 38 percent said they disapprove. Six percent said they don’t know, or refused to answer.

The 18-percentage-point margin of support for casinos is larger than in recent WBUR surveys. In March, 46 percent of respondents said they back casinos, to 43 percent opposed. And then in May, the margin supporting casinos was 10 points — 49 percent to 39 percent.

“Polls are noisy, and we’ll know as more polls come out whether or not the [Supreme Judicial Court] decision was the high water mark, or is this the beginning of a new trend?” said pollster Steve Koczela, whose MassINC Polling Group conducts surveys for WBUR.

The majority backing of casinos is despite “some pretty significant headwinds,” Koczela added in an email.

Fifty-one percent of poll respondents said they lack confidence in the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, the panel charged with handing out gambling licenses. And just 29 percent of those surveyed said news they’ve seen about the casino licensing process has been positive.

But still, a plurality of poll respondents said casinos are a net positive. Forty-nine percent hew closer to the view that casinos provide jobs and needed revenue, while 40 percent said casinos are a net negative, driving out existing businesses and bringing social ills like crime and gambling addiction.

The survey also asked respondents about their own casino visits. About half had visited one in the last three years. Of those who had been to a casino within three years, 61 percent visited one in Connecticut — home to the massive establishments Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.

Recouping revenue Massachusetts gamblers spend in out-of-state casinos was one of the arguments made by proponents of the casino law before it was enacted in 2011.

Governor’s Race

In the gubernatorial race, Democrat Martha Coakley maintains her front-runner position in the WBUR poll. Of the Democratic candidates, the attorney general performs the strongest against Republican front-runner Charlie Baker, topping him 41 percent to 28 percent in a hypothetical matchup that also includes the race’s independent candidates. Baker outpolls the other Democrats, Steve Grossman and Donald Berwick, in similar hypothetical matchups. All three Democrats top the other GOP candidate, Mark Fisher.

The casino issue — at least at this point — seems to have little impact on the governor’s race. Eighteen percent of respondents said support for casinos would make them more likely to vote for a particular candidate, while 22 percent said such support would make them less likely to vote for a candidate. Most of those surveyed (58 percent) said support for casinos would make no difference when casting their gubernatorial vote.

Said Koczela, the MassINC pollster:

“As voters learn more about the candidates’ positions it wouldn’t surprise me if there does start to be more of a relationship between how you feel about casinos and who you say you’re going to support for governor, but that relationship’s not showing up very strongly just yet.”

The telephone survey of 502 likely voters was conducted June 27-29.

This story was updated with some reporting from WBUR’s Bruce Gellerman’s radio feature.

- Here are the poll’s topline results (via Scribd):

- Here are the poll’s crosstabs (via Scribd):

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  • JohnnyBeagle

    Is anyone paying attention? Atlantic City has just announced the closing of another casino.

  • Rastadude1

    Fools gold.

  • Lawrence

    People are so desperate and ill informed and greedy for what they think will be “easy money.”

  • Emmanuel Ezekiel

    The rarer the opportunity, the more important the freedom to seize it and the more serious the loss if we fail to make the most of it.

  • ProfessorNewshound

    At one time, most people in Massachusetts embraced a moralistic/traditionalistic political culture in which government was viewed as a defender of traditional social mores and the status quo.

    Not any more. People today are far more libertarian in their outlooks — they are much more likely to believe that “if folks want to smoke pot, that’s their business; if they want to marry their same-sex partner, that’s their business; and, yes, if they want to gamble, that’s their business. Such actions may not be my choice, but I’m not fond of a meddling government restricting such matters for people who want to engage in those activities.”

    Libertarian minded people see those who tut-tut about the evils of casinos as simply modern day versions of the old busy-body puritans who, comfortable in their higher social status, railed against the evils of alcohol and sexual licentiousness which were thought to be hallmarks of the lower class.

    As so it is now with casinos. Today’s gambling foes are often educated, upper middle class people who recoil at the glitz and cheezy tawdriness of what is essentially a working class social escape. But the world has changed and like the old puritans before them, casino foes are now behind the times.

    • pto

      I like casinos… and I’m libertarian. I think that giving out licenses for a gambling monopoly is very un-libertarian but I understand the math of wanting to have just a few “classy joints” rather than a bunch of small casinos. But the other part of the math that has to work is that the casinos have to attract enough out of state gamblers and retained Massachusetts gamblers to offset the money that will pour out of the state in the form of profits to big casinos. Investors expect a return, so any outside investment where the primary or exclusive customers are Massachusetts customers will be a net economic loss to the state. The casinos need to attract tourist dollars or else casinos will end up being a bad bet for Massachusetts. As with most things, the devil is in the details.

  • pto

    MGM Springfield is a pretty good plan which will recreate a city block with shopping and entertainment and provide an entertainment anchor to the downtown. Why can’t Boston get a plan like that? The fortress in an industrial area casino proposals that we ended up with are the result of a failed process. Boston has so much to offer for tourism. A new world class hotel with a casino would have been great closer to downtown. Wynn is probably the one with a bit more potential if the city and state can also reinvest some money back into that area… maybe put in a commuter rail stop there. Mohegan in Revere would be right on the Blue Line which could be good for making it a transit oriented development… too bad they couldn’t build taller because of Logan. The views from Wynn will be good if they can demolish a few of those older smokestacks at the power station.

  • Jonathan Leibowitz

    When I think of John 8:44, the Jews naturally come to mind.

  • GChem 68

    Obongo’s a communist. And he’s not even a very bright one.

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