By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

“Yes” to gambling; “no” to casinos

If nothing else, today’s Boston Globe poll on casino gambling shows that though there may be support for the idea of casino gambling, it’s going to be rough sledding for any particular casino proposal.

Overall, 53 percent of those surveyed say they favor Gov. Deval Patrick’s plan to build three casinos in Massachusetts. Dig deeper, though, and you can see that they really don’t.

The story, by Andrea Estes, gets at this dynamic here:

The poll raises the prospect of a “not in my backyard” backlash, one in which residents favor casinos but fear the traffic and crime problems associated with large-scale resort-casino developments. Fifty-four percent of those surveyed who live in metropolitan Boston said they think casinos should be located in rural areas, while 36 percent of those living in Western Massachusetts said they believe casinos should be in cities.

“I think if it’s in your backyard, you’re not going to want it,” said Ron Hull of East Boston, a teacher. “I’ve read that crime does go up in areas with casinos, and there is the traffic I’m worried about, too.”

When you look at the actual results (PDF), the numbers are even more striking. For instance, respondents were asked, “If Massachusetts were to permit casinos to open, would you want them to be in urban or rural areas?” Check this out:

  • Those who live inside Route 128 favor rural areas over urban areas, 54 percent to 18 percent.
  • Those who live between 128 and 495 favor rural areas over urban areas, 40 percent to 23 percent.
  • Those who live in Central Massachusetts favor rural areas over urban areas, 45 percent to 26 percent.
  • Those who live in Western Massachusetts favor urban areas over rural areas, 36 percent to 27 percent.
  • Those who live in “Southern” (which I take to mean Southeastern) Massachusetts, Cape Cod and the Islands favor rural areas over urban areas, 44 percent to 24 percent.

So there you have it. In every part of the state, overwhelming majorities do not want a casino built near them.

My other favorite question: “If you had a child, would you want your son or daughter to work in a casino?” The answer: 46 percent “no,” 33 percent “yes.” This is, of course, another form of NIMBYism, and a particular pernicious one. Why is it all right for someone else’s kid to work at a casino but not your own?

In other casino-related news, efforts to recall three of Middleborough’s five selectmen fell short yesterday. (The New Bedford Standard-Times covers the story here; the Brockton Enterprise here.)

To the extent that casino opponents allowed the recall election to be portrayed as a referendum on the proposed casino in that town, this is an unfortunate development. But I suspect this will prove to be no more than a minor setback in the campaign to keep Middleborough casino-free.

My standard disclosure.

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  1. mark

    I’m not sure that the numbers hold up here. You could certainly argue that Central Massachusetts is mostly rural, and they favor rural casinos. Same thing for the area between 128 and 495. And southeastern Massachusetts is definitely mostly rural. The one thing that is certainly true is that genuine urban areas want casinos in rural areas. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Mark: The swath between 128 and 495 is urban/suburban — not any true rural in the entire stretch. Central Massachusetts is dominated by Worcester and, to a lesser extent, Springfield; Southeastern Massachusetts by New Bedford and Fall River.

  3. Anonymous

    It will be interesting to see if people still think S.E. MA is dominated by NB & FR when it comes time for permitting of the proposed commuter rail. I’m guessing that we’ll be hearing about despoiling of pristine wetlands between Stoughton and Rte. 495. Pretzel logic alert!

  4. Anonymous

    I don’t even know where to start.Essentially, this poll tells me nothing. It looks conveniently and hastily thrown together at a time when few voters have heard all the arguments and have had a chance to judge the governor’s highly flawed proposal. The Globe already supported the plan in an editorial and this looks like today’s installment of biased covergage bolstering their position.500 adults in Mass. households. 4.4 percent error. So what. Depending on who you call and how you phrase the questions, you could make this poll tell you anything you wanted it to.

  5. Reuben from Plympton

    The polling asked first if you want a casino, then asked, okay, where do you want it? For anyone who answered no to the first, to answer anything but “no preference” or “don’t want any” to the second wouldn’t show much principle, would it? It’s probably reading way too much into the results, and I’m no polling expert (but then again, is anyone?), but I find it interesting that the percentages answering “no preference” and “don’t want any” to the second total almost exactly the number indicating opposition in the first. At the very least this read casts lots of doubt on the results of the polling on whether the casinos should be in rural or urban areas.(My apologies if you got multiple postings of this comment.)

  6. Anonymous

    501 random people is not what I’d call a thorough representation of the population.

  7. Dan Kennedy

    If they were random, then the poll would be invalid. They’re not. The UNH Survey Center is a respected polling organization that puts a lot of effort into making sure its samples are representative. Polling is kind of a mysterious art, and we know it often goes wrong. But I’d say this is pretty reliable. On the other hand, I doubt there’s much here that can be counted on holding up, given people barely have enough information on which to make a judgment at this point.

  8. Anonymous

    Hi all, I’m new to this whole blogging thing but I will say that I am married an Aquinnah tribal member, and to be honest a casino will not change our lives. We own property in Mass but live in Florida. The thing that confuses me is how anti or pro casino people will knock any poll for or against casinos to reflect their own interest. To be honest if i were pulling the strings for either tribe i would not bid on a casino license at all. I do believe that casinos are coming to Mass anyway tribal or not. The reality is that if casinos were so bad why then are so many states continuing to approve them? I believe that we still live in a free society and what right does someone have to tell me what I can or can not do with my money. just my 2 cents worth.

  9. Gladys Kravitz

    Hello Aquinnah, anonymous. I actually LIVE in MA in an area which may end up hosting a casino, so I do not have the luxury of insisting that a casino will NOT come, without actually making an effort that it does NOT. When I first heard about a casino coming to our area, I thought I should worry about my property values. Then, after much research, I realized that one casino, much less THREE, which eventually means more than three casinos – since it will not stop at that, would be a terrible thing for my part of the world. I, like you, believe I also live in a free society, but also a moral one, a responsible one – and billionaires and Tribes should not, in a few months time before the majority of residents can become educated, decide how my life and the life of my children and neighbors should change, for the benefit of THEIR greed. Is that the America you live in?

  10. Anonymous

    Ahhh, yes. New to the whole “blogging thing.”

  11. Local Editor

    Two points:If I recall correctly from J-School, pollsters consider 400 people is considered a sufficient number for an accurate poll.Dan,I don’t know how densely populated an area must be to be called rural, but a lot of SE Mass. is pretty close, especially the site in Middleboro.

  12. Dan Kennedy

    I think Middleborough has a rural character, but it’s also very suburban — and a 20-minute drive from cities such as Brockton, New Bedford and Fall River.

  13. Anonymous

    So it’s that simple? 400 is the magic number, no matter the population?Anyways. I think it’s irresponsible and manipulative for the Globe to have done a poll at this point. There is going to be a long public debate on this. A front page poll now serves to push readers in a direction, not inform them about how the debate is going.

  14. Local Editor

    Anonymous 12:30 p.m.Yes, far as I know, it’s that simple.

  15. Anonymous

    As far as you know. You’re kidding, right? 400 works for Mass., Rhode Island, the entire US, China, any population size?

  16. Karen

    Dan, Central Mass is very rural. It includes Orange, Athol, Charlton, Lancaster, Rutland…and lots of towns nobody ever heard of. It is not dominated by Worcester at all. I know, I’ve covered local news for the T&G for 15 years…There’s Sterling, Boylston, Barre..How I could go on. I think the people in Clinton, however, which is pretty dense, might go for it. Karen

  17. Stocky

    Dan, the poll never asked the question:Do you support the Gov’s plan?It just asked:Do you support casino gambling.I spell it out at:

  18. online casino

    You can always gamble online.

  19. Jack Coleman

    Dan, not sure I follow your logic when it comes to people who don’t want their kids working in casinos supposedly being indifferent to other people’s kids working in them. Isn’t it more likely that a person opposed to casinos doesn’t want his or her kids working in them – and anyone else’s?

  20. Harry

    Anonymous,The fact that a small sample size can be accurately representative is a property of statistical analysis. If the sample taken is representative of the population (an important “if”), then the statistics derived from the sample will rapidly converge to the statistics of the population as the sample size increases, so that adding to the sample size beyond a certain point does not appreciably improve the accuracy of the reported data.

  21. Anonymous

    Harry, you’re not the only one who took stats. “Beyond a certain point” is the key phrase. Four or five hundred is a small sample of adult Mass. residents.

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