Pollster Patrick Gonzales released numbers Wednesday morning showing that a slim majority of Anne Arundel County voters favor installing a slots emporium at the Arundel Mills Mall, but the margin is within the sampling error.
The questionnaire found voters want the 4,750-machine casino at the mall by 48 to 45. Eight percent are undecided. (The error margin is +/-3.5 percent.) The casino would be the state's largest and residents, supported by a group that wants to build a casino at the Laurel racetrack, want to stop the project by killing a zoning measure the County Council passed.
The question will only appear on Anne Arundel ballots, but the issue has the feel of a state-wide race because both sides have poured millions into television advertising seen well beyond the county boarders.
The ballot question is extremely difficult to pick through (but is worth reading just for the sake of amusement - or horror depending on one's mindset). It essentially asks if voters are "for" or "against" the zoning plan.
Voting "for" supports the zoning and allows billionaire developer David Cordish to begin constructing a gambling site at the mall. Sun colleague Nicole Fuller reported recently that Cordish, 70, has taken to door-knocking to persuade voters that the casino is a good idea. (Meanwhile, the developer is potentially losing a contract for his gaming venue in Indiana.)
Voting "against" puts the process back to square one and the newly elected council would need to pass a new zoning bill. (Which could, again, trigger a referendum.)
The issue does not break neatly along party lines like most of the other major questions in the poll, though Republicans tend to dislike putting gambling in the mall (51 percent against; 44 percent for) and Democrats tend to want gambling at the mall (56 percent for; 37 percent against.) Unaffiliated voters broke 39 percent for and 54 percent against.)
Still the voter affiliation is somewhat interesting because it appears that the gubernatorial candidates have each staked out views unsupported by the majorities within their respective parties.
Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, wants the slots question to go down. Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., brought in Cordish in as a client to his former firm worked to support slots at the mall.
Gonzales wrote in his analysis that, even though a slight majority supports slot at the mall, the Cordish team should still focus on "flipping" some of the Republicans and Independents.