Public support for opening Massachusetts to Las Vegas-style casino gambling appears to be plummeting, raising the hopes of gambling opponents seeking to repeal the state casino law.
Forty-six percent of likely voters approve of locating casinos in Massachusetts, while 43 percent disapprove, according to a new WBUR survey conducted by MassINC Polling Group. The poll, released today, shows a significant drop in support for the gambling industry in just the past two months.
In a January survey, MassINC found that 53 percent of registered voters approved of casinos in the state, while 39 percent disapproved.
The polling trend suggests that a proposed repeal of the state casino law may have a real chance to pass, if it qualifies for the November ballot. Casino opponents have asked the Supreme Judicial Court for a ruling to permit a casino repeal question on the ballot. Casino supporters, including several gambling companies that want to build in Massachusetts, are opposing the repeal. The court is expected to decide this summer.
John Ribeiro, chairman of the casino repeal effort, said in a statement this morning that the new polling numbers suggest “Massachusetts voters are intelligent, and when presented with the data and facts that casinos do not bring the economic revitalization that they falsely promise, voters stand against the casino culture.”
Despite the possibility of repeal, the state gambling commission is pushing ahead in its licensing process. The commission last month chose Penn National Gaming to build the state’s sole slot parlor, in Plainville. The commission plans to award resort casino licenses for Western Massachusetts in May and in the Boston region in May or June.
The new poll shows that men support casino expansion, 49 percent to 43 percent, but women are almost evenly split, with 44 percent opposing casinos and 43 percent in favor.
Municipal voters across the state have repeatedly shown that jobs are a key factor in determining local support for casino proposals — communities with high unemployment and below-average median income levels have tended to support casinos. The new poll suggests that people with a lower levels of education, high-school or less, approve of adding casinos by an overwhelming 61 percent to 32 percent. However, people with advanced degrees who are unlikely to be interested in most casino jobs strongly oppose the expansion of the gambling industry, 60 percent to 28 percent.
The poll of 500 likely voters, performed March 14-16, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent, according to WBUR.