050114 GTR_WNEU logo_300Casinos remain popular as a concept in Massachusetts, just so long as they are located in someone else’s community, according to the latest telephone survey from the Western New England University Polling Institute.

The statewide survey of 477 adults, conducted March 31 – April 7, 2014, found that 59 percent of adults said they support establishing casinos in Massachusetts, while 34 percent were opposed and seven percent were either undecided or declined to answer the question. The margin of sampling error for the survey was plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

While support for casinos in the state remains strong, a majority of survey respondents—55 percent—said they oppose having a casino in their community. Forty-two percent said they support having a casino in their community. Three percent were undecided or declined to answer the question.

The results were almost identical to the Polling Institute’s previous survey on the issue, conducted Nov. 5-11, 2013. In that survey of 517 adults, 61 percent supported establishing casinos in the state, while 33 percent were opposed. When asked whether they support or oppose having a casino in their community, 55 percent of adults in the November 2013 survey said they oppose the idea, while 42 percent said they support a casino in their community.

Cross-tabulating responses to the two questions – whether to support casinos and whether to support one in the local community – shows how public opinion is distributed on both issues. Forty-one percent of adults support both establishing casinos and having one in their community.
Another 34 percent oppose allowing casinos in the state and also oppose locating one in their town. Eighteen percent endorse having casinos in Massachusetts, but do not want one in their community. Another three percent said they do not know or declined to give an answer regarding casinos in the state, but they said they do not want to have a casino near where they live.

Tim Vercellotti, director of the Polling Institute and a professor of political science at Western New England University, noted that the latest results are roughly consistent with Polling Institute findings from surveys dating to 2009. “This consistency exists even with the many recent developments regarding casinos in Massachusetts,” Vercellotti said.

Under a state law adopted in 2011, the state will license up to three resort casinos, with one in each of three regions in the state, and one slots parlor. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission recently approved a license for a slots parlor at the Plainridge Racecourse in Plainville, and the commission has said it expects to award licenses for casinos in two of the three regions later this year.

Several communities have voted on whether to approve casinos in the past 12 months. Casino proposals have passed in Everett, Springfield and Revere, and they have been defeated in East Boston, Milford, Palmer and West Springfield. Voters’ decisions to reject casino proposals in various parts of the state have given hope to casino opponents, who have proposed a ballot initiative that would overturn the state law that authorized casinos. State Attorney General Martha Coakley rejected the ballot question last year, concluding that it would amount to an unjust taking of property from casino companies and their partners. Casino opponents have asked the state Supreme Judicial Court to overturn Coakley’s decision, and the court is scheduled to hear the case in May.

If the court rules in favor of casino opponents, the ballot question could go before voters in the Nov. 4, 2014 election.