In the Cards

Herald poll suggests Boston deadlocked on Suffolk Downs casino

Suffolk Downs
Suffolk DownsCredit: Globe photo

Suffolk Downs cannot be pleased with the results of the new Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll, which suggests Bostonians are deadlocked on the track’s $1 billion casino proposal, with 46 percent of likely voters in favor and 46 percent opposed.

Those results are slightly worse for the casino than a recent Boston Globe poll which suggested 53 percent of likely voters supported the casino, and 36 percent opposed it.

The Suffolk University/Herald poll of 600 likely voters was conducted Sept. 12-17. The margin of error is 4 percent, accourding to Suffolk University.

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One takeaway from the two recent polls is that there is a significant bloc of casino opponents citywide, which could pose a challenge for Suffolk Downs if they get a chance to vote. On an emotional issue such as casino gambling, opponents historically turn out in higher numbers at the ballot box, specialists say. Just ask Hard Rock International. The gambling giant went into its vote in West Springfield last week with a 49-41 percent advantage, according to its own polling. But Hard Rock got clobbered by 10 points in the referendum.

Like the Globe poll, the Suffolk University/Herald poll measured opinions across the city, even though the full city may not decide the casino issue.

Under state law, large cities have the option of limiting the vote to ward in which the casino would be located, or expanding the vote citywide, as Springfield did in July with an MGM proposal.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino wants to limit the vote to East Boston residents, whom, he says, are most likely to be affected by a casino in their neighborhood.

Most Bostonians disagree. In the Herald poll, 64 percent of likely voters believe the full city should have a say in whether there may be a casino in the Boston. Just 30 percent say the decision should be East Boston’s alone. Those numbers are similar to the results of the Globe poll earlier this month.

Suffolk Downs has requested the casino referendum be set for Nov. 5, the same day as the Boston municipal election.

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