PALMER, Mass. (WWLP) - In less than a week, voters in Palmer will head to the polls to decide if they want a resort-style casino in their town. Question is, will it pass?
Continuing their casino coverage for us our 22News I-Team hit the streets in Palmer to find out how people plan to vote. The I-Team conducted these polls in three communities, Springfield, West Springfield and Palmer.
Heading into this poll, we thought we'd find the majority of Palmer residents polled supporting the casino in town. While that is what we found, the numbers from this sample were a lot closer than we thought.
Palmer residents are getting ready to vote Tuesday on Mohegan Sun's $1 billion casino project proposed off the Mass Pike. The I-Team wanted to gauge how they plan to vote.
“Am I in favor of it? No”, says a Palmer resident.
The I-Team got the list of active registered voters in town. Over several October days, the I-Team canvassed neighborhoods in every precinct, scoured busy parking lots and made calls keeping track of everyone we talked to; cross-checking the records against the voter list.
After polling 400 people with a +/- 4.75% margin of error we found 49% said they'd vote yes, 40% said they'd vote no and 11% were still undecided.
“Most of the neighbors I talk to say yeah, I'll vote for it, but a lot of signs say they won't,” said a Palmer resident.
Mohegan Sun has been trying to get their message out, but one resident says he's voting no because he feels there are still too many uncertainties.
Palmer’s Phil Lachut said, “What's it going to do to our police department, our fire departments, our water and sewer departments, our school department? Are we going to have to take an increase the size of our schools? To support 35 different languages?"
We shared our results with Palmer Town Councilor Paul Burns who supports the casino project.
(Is that what you expected? Was it a little off?)
“I think it's pretty close to what I thought was happening on the ground. I think the numbers have tightened a bit over time and I think that was to be expected,” said Burns.
Mohegan Sun has shown an interest in Palmer for more than 5 years. It has already passed the state gaming commission's background checks, but if voters turn their plan down, Mohegan Sun has to walk away.
“It's also a wake-up call for the pro-side. It isn't going to be a blow-out. If you support this casino you need to get out and vote for this on Election day on Tuesday,” said Burns.
We contacted Mohegan Sun several times since we completed our poll to talk with us about the results. The company, which has been very accessible in the past year turned down our request and sent us a statement instead.
Statement from Mitchell Etess, CEO of Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority:
“Our campaign is focused on talking directly to voters in Palmer about the thousands of jobs, opportunities for local business, new revenue for the town and tax relief that Mohegan Sun Massachusetts will mean. We are encouraged every day by the number of supporters we have and the energy and excitement they have brought to this campaign. We are working hard with our supporters to earn each vote - in the same way we’ve worked hard to become part of the Palmer community over the past five years.”
This is the fourth poll the I-Team has conducted.
In Springfield our poll results showed 49% of voters planned to vote yes. 35% planned to vote no and 16% were undecided. There was a +/- 4% margin of error. The final results in Springfield were 57.7% said yes and 42.3% voted no. The undecided voters in our poll split their vote.
In April in West Springfield, 26% said yes, 56% said no and 18% were undecided with a +/- 4% margin of error. In August, with a +/- 5% margin of error; 44% said yes, 43% said no and 13% were undecided. The final results in West Springfield 55% said no, 45% said yes.