DARTMOUTH – New Bedford residents remain strongly in favor of a resort casino in their community, despite the existence of “some identifiable pockets of opposition or indecision,” based on a poll last week by the University of Massachusetts–Dartmouth Center for Policy Analysis.
“Since the casino issue was first broached in Massachusetts in 1995, New Bedford residents have consistently and persistently indicated that they are willing to host a resort casino,” Clyde W. Barrow, the center’s director, said in a statement. “Despite 13 years of contentious debate on the issue, and unfavorable votes by the Mass. House of Representatives, a majority of the Whaling City’s residents still want to host a resort casino.”
When the question was put to city voters in 1995, 78 percent voted in favor of the proposal and 22 percent voted against. And on a similar ballot measure in 2001, 64 percent voted in favor of a New Bedford casino while 36 percent voted against.
In last week’s survey, 53 percent of residents asked whether they support a casino in the city said yes, 20 percent said no and 27 percent were undecided. Among respondents who said they are registered to vote in New Bedford, 55 percent favored a casino, 20 percent were opposed and 25 percent were undecided.
A more specific question, asking whether respondents support a resort casino in the city’s Hicks-Logan neighborhood, also was supported by better than 2 to 1. Fifty-three present favored the proposal, 23 percent were opposed and 24 percent were undecided.
Support for a local casino was stronger among men (61 percent) than women (47 percent), and weaker among residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher (44 percent) than those with less education. “This result is not surprising,” Barrows noted, “given what we know about the types of employment opportunities provided by resort casinos.”
A local casino drew support from respondents at every income level. Support was weakest among those earning $50,000 to $75,000 per year, among whom 37 percent favored the idea, 34 percent were opposed and 29 percent were undecided.
And the idea was favored by New Bedford adults of all ages, and by a majority in every group but the 18- to 29-year-olds, among whom 35 percent supported the plan, 20 percent were opposed and 42 percent were undecided.
The results were similar to those in a recent statewide poll by the Center for Policy Analysis, in which 57 percent of respondents said the Legislature should approve more casinos while 30 percent opposed the idea. That poll found similar support – 58 percent to 31 percent – for siting a resort casino in New Bedford. (READ MORE)
The latest poll was sponsored – at a cost of $6,000 – by Northeast Resorts Group, which has plans for casino developments in New Bedford and the central Massachusetts community of Palmer. Northeast owns a 35-acre waterfront parcel in the Hicks-Logan section of New Bedford, which it plans to develop into a project it calls Revere Landing, and has teamed up with Peter Pan Bus Lines and Mohegan Sun in an agreement to develop a 152-acre site off the Mass Pike in Palmer, if the state approves casino gambling.
The poll of 474 city residents – conducted Wednesday through Friday – had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percent at the 95-percent confidence interval.
“One of the most remarkable findings of the poll,” Barrow said, “is that despite the efforts of state and local anti-casino groups to mobilize opposition to expanded gambling, only 20 percent of New Bedford’s residents are firmly opposed to locating a casino in the city.”
That local support is vital to would-be casino developers in Massachusetts. The casino legislation submitted by Gov. Deval L. Patrick last fall, and rejected by the state House in March, would have allowed three resort casinos across the state including one in southeastern Massachusetts. But it would have allowed casinos to be licensed and sited only in communities where the idea had been approved by residents in a binding referendum. “It is likely that any future legislative proposals will contain a similar provision,” the UMass policy center said in its report.
For more information about the University of Massachusetts–Dartmouth Center for Policy Analysis and its New England Gaming Research Project, including the latest data on gambling expenditures in southern New England, visit www.umassd.edu/cfpa/.