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'Save East Greenbush' Releases Casino Poll

Composite Image by Dave Lucas (WAMC)

While upstate New York waits for the Gaming Commission to approve up to four casinos, anti-casino group Save East Greenbush has released the results of an Election Day exit poll that asked voters how they felt about a gaming hall going up on Thompson Hill Road.  The would-be casino developer disputes the result.

The exit poll was conducted on November 4th. 345 voters in the Town of East Greenbush were asked if they supported a casino on Thompson Hill Road. The survey is the latest in a series of actions "Save East Greenbush" has taken as it continues to oppose efforts to attract a casino to town.  The poll is the brainchild of group member Elizabeth Wade.    "People that are supporting the casino have been known to say they are the silent majority, and that the people against the casino are simply a vocal minority. I just wanted to know the truth."

Wade says she was advised by seasoned pollsters and statisticians on how to carry out the sampling.   "The process was more important than numbers. We had to be out there pretty much at the same time across three different polling places across different times during the day, and that we had to get every third voter, and that statistically, those were important parts of the process."

Dr. Jack Conway, formerly chair of the town ethics board, is a cultural anthropologist who served as the academic who analyzed the results and authored the report. He explains volunteers approached every third voter who left the polling booth and asked him or her to answer four questions regarding a casino.    "One was about support, and whether they supported or opposed. The other three were characteristics: age, gender and party affiliation. We got 345 responses, which is approximately 6.3 percent of the total poll in East Greenbush on the day. 211 people opposed the casino, which was 61.16 percent, 92 people supported the casino, which was 26.87 percent, and 42 people were undecided, which was 12.17 percent."

Conway says the opposition was consistent across all categories and times during the day when polling was undertaken.    Save East Greenbush volunteer Cara Benson says the majority of locals have been opposed from day one.   "The developers have spent an inordinante amount, hundreds of thousands of dollars, trying to affect opinion over here, and the more people that learn about it and learn about the specific location, the more opposed they get."

Morgan Hook, spokesperson for Capital View Casino & Resort, says Save East Greenbush is not qualified or trained to conduct an accurate poll. He pointed out that earlier this year, the town board voted in favor of Capital View Casino & Resort. In a statement, Hook says Save East Greenbush’s poll is neither scientific nor newsworthy.

Conway says the poll was executed as a random sample, with no apparent or obvious biases.   "The moral of the story is that the people of East Greenbush not only oppose the casino, but oppose it by quite a significant majority."

The Gaming Commission’s casino siting board reportedly plans to meet on Monday in New York City to privately discuss the 16 bids for casino licenses, but sources told the Times Union no announcements are anticipated, although the board could reveal its "final four" list of licensees any day now.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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