Supporters of bringing a new casino to Prince George's County are winning the local gambling fight, according to an independent survey released Wednesday.
The survey of Prince George's voters, performed by Clarity Campaign Labs, shows that 47 percent of respondents support Question 7, which would allow table games and round-the-clock operation at in-state casinos in addition to adding a facility in the county. Just 35 percent of respondents oppose the expansion, while 17 percent are undecided.
Of respondents who said they were "very excited" to vote, 52 percent said they support gambling expansion. Of those who said they were "not excited" to vote, 53 percent said they oppose the expansion -- though they made up only 10 percent of total respondents.
|The poll results|
|Source: Clarity Campaign Labs|
Tom Bonier, partner and co-founder of Clarity Campaign Labs, said the excitement gap may be due to the presidential race. "The voters who are not excited are much more likely to be Republicans," he said, noting that Maryland is almost a sure win for President Obama in November. A majority of Republican respondents oppose gambling expansion, while a majority of Democrats support it.
A new casino won't be built unless a majority of voters in Prince George's County vote in favor of expansion on the November ballot. Gambling advocates have undertaken a large local push for Question 7, including community events, door-to-door canvassing and targeted advertising.
"We have a really aggressive grass-roots campaign," Vote for Seven spokeswoman Kristen Hawn said.
For opponents like Arthur Turner, president of the Coalition of Central Prince George's County Community Organizations, the campaign is a bit too aggressive. He said a radio ad running in the county features black women talking about the benefits of a new casino as they wait for the bus. The commercial, Turner said, exaggerates their voices to play into stereotypes of African-Americans.
"Now that's insulting," he said. "I cringe every time I hear that commercial."
Turner's organization and other local opponents have been working on their own grass-roots campaign, which includes street signs, phone calls and door-to-door canvassing. Penn National Gaming, which operates casinos in West Virginia and Perryville, has poured more than $21.6 million into the advertising fight.
MGM Resorts International, which would operate a planned casino at National Harbor if the gambling expansion passes, has contributed $18.2 million in support of the measure. Caesars Entertainment, which is set to operate a new Baltimore casino, has chipped in $3.4 million, while Peterson Cos., the National Harbor developer, has contributed $1.25 million.
Meanwhile, former Prince George's County Executive Wayne Curry announced the formation of a new ballot committee in support of gambling expansion on Wednesday. The committee will start with a $500,00 contribution from Peterson Cos., according to the new group.
Clarity Campaign Labs surveyed 1,091 county residents by phone on Oct. 14 and 15. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.83 percent.