PENNSYLVANIA Gambling poll results give Gov. Rendell boost



More than 60 percent in the poll said they support the new law.
HARRISBURG (AP) -- A new law that legalizes slot-machine gambling to finance up to $1 billion annually in property-tax cuts has given Gov. Ed Rendell's approval rating a boost, says an independent poll.
And while slightly more than half of the poll's respondents said they feel the $1 billion is a realistic goal, far fewer said they planned to play the slot machines.
Sixty-two percent of respondents to the Quinnipiac University poll said they support the new law, which authorizes 61,000 slot machines in Pennsylvania, while 32 percent said they disapprove. The survey, released Tuesday, also found that 54 percent approve of the way Rendell is handling his job -- the governor's highest approval rating since Quinnipiac's first poll of his administration in February 2003.
"Since he was elected, many voters have put their feelings about Rendell on hold, kind of a wait-and-see mode," said Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the university's polling institute. "This brings him back to where he was when he started. If the money comes in from the slot machines, there's a good chance it will go even higher."
The telephone survey of 1,577 registered voters was conducted from July 6 through Sunday. The sampling-error margin is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.
New law's promise
Even though homeowners will likely have to wait until 2006 before school districts can start offsetting property-tax bills with the gambling revenue, many respondents believe the new law will deliver on its $1 billion promise: Fifty-one percent said they believe slots would raise that much money, while 38 percent did not believe that would happen.
At the same time, about one-third of the respondents surveyed said they plan to indulge in slot-machine gambling, while 62 percent said they would avoid it.
"I'm sure that many Pennsylvanians feel tourists are going to pay" for the gambling financed property-tax cuts, Richards said.
Voters influenced by moral arguments against gambling were in the minority, the poll found. Sixty-two percent did not believe it is morally wrong for the state to depend on gambling for revenue, while 35 percent agreed it is morally wrong.
Most voters -- 59 percent -- also said they were "not too concerned" or "not concerned at all" that slot machines would increase organized crime. Forty percent said they were "very" or "somewhat" concerned about growth in organized crime.
Respondents were split in their feelings about the prospect of increased gambling addiction: Fifty percent said they were "very" or "somewhat" concerned, and 49 percent said they had little or no concern.
Voters were almost evenly split over how they feel Rendell is handling property taxes: Forty-three percent said they disapproved, while 41 percent said they approved, narrowing the gap from an April poll that found 50 percent disapproving and 29 percent approving.
Rendell garnered better marks for his handling of the state budget, with 45 percent of voters approving and 38 percent disapproving.

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