Two Polls/Pollsters Show Dramatic Attitude Shift on Gaming at Horse, Greyhound Tracks; Policy Option for State Government
To tax or not to tax? To cut or not to cut? To spend or not to spend?
Whether or not to allow additional gaming at Arizona ’s existing horse and greyhound tracks to aid state funding needs is a question for Governor Brewer and the Arizona State Legislature. However, there is a plan that could deliver hundreds of millions of new revenue to starved Arizona coffers this fiscal year. “Racinos,” as the combined operations are known, currently operate in 12 states.
Arizona voters have greatly improved their confidence in the concept, according to two surveys by two different, well-respected pollsters.
Polls conducted in May, 2008, by Public Opinion Strategies, and February, 2009 by Tucson-based Arizona Opinion and Margaret Kenski show Arizona voters solidly support the notion of gaming at the tracks -- where games of chance are already enjoyed by Arizonans and tourists alike. The level of support has increased over the past year. Both polls tested 600 likely voters throughout Arizona .
The Kenski poll also tested the idea (over-sampled) in a number of legislative districts. Interestingly, those who live within such a district with a horse and greyhound track support the policy proposal margin by greater margins than those who do not.
The Public Opinion Strategies poll by Glen Bolger included the following questions:
“As you may know, Arizona is facing budget deficits. In general, which of the following options do you support most to eliminate the deficit…”
10% - Raise taxes
43% - Decrease spending …or…
37% - Find a new source of revenue for state government?
“As you may know, Arizona will have a budget deficit of two billion dollars or more next year. State economists are forecasting additional deficits in succeeding years too. Rather than raise taxes or cut existing programs, some people suggest that part of the solution would include allowing casinos at the six existing horse and greyhound tracks in Arizona . This is projected to raise between $500 million to one billion dollars in tax revenue annually for the state and help close the state’s budget deficit and allow for tax cuts or spending for key state programs in future years. In general, would you say you support or oppose allowing casinos at six existing horse and greyhound racing tracks in Arizona to address the budget deficit?”
The levels of support were 61% in favor, 36% opposed and 3% undecided.
The Arizona Opinion poll by Dr. Margaret Kenski included the following questions:
“In general, which of the following options do you support most to help eliminate the deficit?” (1. Raise taxes, 2. Decrease spending; or 3. Find a new source of revenue for State government.)
15.3% - Raise taxes
33.3% - Decrease spending
30.3% - Find new source of revenue
21.0% - Other, Don’t Know, Refused
“There is another proposal that is intended to help fix the State budget deficit rather than raising taxes or cutting important programs. Allowing casino gaming at the six existing horse and greyhound racetracks in Arizona would raise between $300 million and $500 million in tax revenue each year for the State. This money could be dedicated to closing the State’s $3 billion budget deficit, cutting taxes or providing additional funding for state programs. In general, would you say that you support or oppose allowing casino gaming at Arizona ’s six existing horse and greyhound racetracks to help Arizona taxpayers solve the State budget deficit?”
38.8% - Definitely support
24% - Probably support
8.7% - Probably oppose
24.3% - Definitely oppose
4.2% - Don’t know/undecided/refused
The levels of support were 62.8% in favor, 33% opposed and 4.2% undecided.
Both polls tested arguments for and against the concept, using language both proponents and opponents would likely use. After hearing all sides of the issue, the levels of support and opposition varied only slightly. Of all the arguments tested pro and con, the one people most agreed with was the following:
“One of the Indian tribes plans to spend $550 million to build Arizona ’s largest casino in Glendale right next to the University of Phoenix football stadium and 200 miles from its main reservation. If a tribe can build casinos away from their main reservation, it seems only fair to allow the horse and greyhound racetracks to have casino gaming at their six locations, making the playing field a bit more level and helping both the racing industry and state revenues.”
Recently, existing gaming operations on Native American lands have also proposed expanded gaming. But those revenues would provide a fraction of the amount that could potentially be collected by the state at horse and greyhound track due to their willingness to share far more revenues with the state. Even if the poison pill in the state gaming compact is exercised and Native American tribes are no longer required to share as much revenue with the state of Arizona, revenues from horse and greyhound tracks would dwarf that currently being received by state government due to the willingness of the tracks to share 45 percent of their revenue with taxpayers rather than the approximate 3.25 percentage the tribes now share.
For more information please contact Jason Rose or Gibson McKay.
Rose & Allyn Public Relations