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Caesars' Massachusetts casino plan no slam dunk

October 14, 2013 7:09 PM by Ray Poirier

Suffolk Downs Voters in East Boston, Massachusetts, are leaning toward approving a casino license for Suffolk Downs and its partner, Caesars Entertainment Corp., but the current lead is hardly a slam dunk.

In a report last week, the Boston Herald newspaper said a poll it conducted with Suffolk University had “Eastie” voters supporting the project by a margin of 47 percent to 39 percent. They had 8 percent of the voters as undecided while another 6 percent refused to respond to the questionnaire.

The project was strongly supported by outgoing Boston Mayor Tom Menino and has received the endorsement of the Boston City Council.

However, the poll’s support was far different from the results achieved by Steve Wynn for his $1.2 billion project proposed for the nearby city of Everett. When asked how they felt about the Wynn project, the Everett voters showed overwhelming approval.

The Suffolk University poll was conducted in conjunction with a poll dealing with a highly-contentious race for the mayor’s seat being vacated by Menino, the city’s longest sitting mayor.

Although a simple majority is needed for the Suffolk Downs proposal to be considered by the Massachusetts Gambling Commission, the poll left interpreters with a question whether the early lead would be enough to secure a victory on Election Day next month.

“This won’t be a pro-casino landslide as it was in Everett,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston.

“So far, the ‘yes’ side seems to be well-positioned. However, supporters aren’t quite over he hump yet, and if the ‘no’ side steps up its intensity, especially among women, It could be closer than we think,” Paleologos said.

He noted that in June, when the voters of Everett went to the polls to decide the casino issue, they endorsed the Wynn casino plans by a vote of 86 to 13 percent.

Paleologos said the recent East Boston poll showed a glaring gender gap on the casino question. The men in the survey favored the casino by 17 points, 51 percent to 34 percent.

The women who were polled, however, favored the Suffolk Downs casino by just one percentage point, 44-43.

Ray Poirier is the longtime executive editor at GamingToday.

Contact Ray at RayPoirier@GamingToday.com.

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