Goodwin Gaming
September 10, 2014

Odds Continue to Favor the House on Proposed Casino Repeal in Massachusetts

After a summer of no polling on the ballot initiative to repeal the Massachusetts gaming law (Question 3), pollsters announced the results of three polls in the last week of August and the first week of September.  All three polls showed the tide of public opinion breaking in favor of keeping the Massachusetts gaming law in place.  The poll from UMass Lowell and Channel 7 showed that “things do not look promising for proponents of the repeal, as presently only 36% of registered voters say they would vote Yes and support the repeal, while 59% say they would vote No, leaving the present law as it stands and allowing casino development to continue.”

Even the Boston Globe poll, which had the highest percentage of pro-repeal respondents, showed 51% of voters supporting keeping the casino authorization in place, with only 42% saying they would vote to repeal the current law.  Despite overall support for moving forward with Bay State casinos, the Globe’s poll showed that confidence in the Gaming Commission is low, with 52% of respondents reporting a lack of confidence in the Commission (and only 45% saying they do have confidence in the Commission).

Candidates for Massachusetts office have split on the casino repeal issue.  In yesterday’s state primary, current Attorney General Martha Coakley edged out current Treasurer Steve Grossman for the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial nomination.  AG Coakley has been publicly supportive of bringing casinos to Massachusetts, noting that she herself will vote against Question 3.  Coakley’s casino stance, however, is at best lukewarm when compared to Grossman’s decidedly pro-casino stance in primary debates.

On the Republican side, Charlie Baker easily defeated Tea Party candidate Mark Fisher.  While pro-gaming, Baker had thus far enthusiastically supported the MGM casino in Springfield, with a more tempered “wait and see” approach as to the rest of the state.  Baker has said that he “think[s] the best plan is that we start with one casino and gauge the impacts on our communities before going forward with more casinos.”

In the Attorney General’s race, current Assistant Attorney General (and relative political newcomer) Maura Healey defeated Warren Tolman (brother of Massachusetts AFL-CIO legend Steve Tolman).   Healey is staunchly anti-gaming which could mean she will draw a greater number of anti-casino voters to the polls in November.  Nonetheless, it is unlikely that any increased anti-casino turnout Healey spurs will be enough to pass a casino repeal in light of current pro-casino polling numbers.

Republican AG candidate John Miller ran unopposed in the primary.  Miller has not provided an opinion as to the casino repeal, other than noting that he disagreed with Coakley’s initial opposition to placing the question on November’s ballot.  Miller has consistently said that he does not view the AG’s role as a political one.

Regardless of which candidates win in November, Question 3 is for the voters, not the politicians.  Based on recent polling, odds are that Massachusetts’ casino plans will continue to move full speed ahead.