- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 2, 2008

Slots opponents say the wind is at their back heading into Election Day, with a new poll they commissioned showing Maryland voters narrowly opposing a referendum to legalize slot machines.

About 48 percent of Maryland voters said they plan to vote against the constitutional amendment, while 45 percent said they support it, according to a Zogby Internet poll paid for by StopSlotsMaryland.

“I think what it tells you is that people understand there are no magic-bullet solutions and that slots will likely create far more in problems than they will bring in solutions,” said Aaron Meisner, chairman of StopSlotsMaryland.

But the poll stands at sharp odds with one paid for by the pro-slots group, For Maryland For Our Future, which earlier this month showed strong support for slots.

Independent polls done over the summer have shown either narrow or broad support for the slots plan. The Zogby poll is the first to show voters opposing the measure.

Voters will decide Tuesday whether to approve Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley’s plan to place 15,000 slot machines at five locations across the state. Lawmakers are banking on slots bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars for the state beginning in 2011 to stave off future budget troubles. But the state still faces immediate shortfalls that likely will result in sizable budget cuts over the next few years.

Slots supporters are confident that they will win handily on Election Day, based on a series of polls done in the past few months, said Steve Kearney, a spokesman for For Maryland For Our Future.

The Zogby survey of 884 registered Maryland voters also showed that opinions are forming more along party lines, with more registered Republicans opposing the measure and more registered Democrats supporting it, compared with previous polls.

Critics of Internet polling have questioned its track record, but slots opponents say this poll likely underplays the “Obama” effect, which would result in a larger turnout among black voters in Maryland.

“We think that bounce, or that buoyancy favors opposition to slots,” said Shawnta Walcott, former communications director for Zogby Polling.

Attempts to take the pulse of voters in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District have also varied greatly in the past year. Polls done by Democratic polling firms for the Democrat Frank M. Kratovil Jr., have either shown him leading his Republican opponent or tied with him. But a poll done by the liberal blog Daily Kos showed Mr. Kratovil trailing Republican state Sen. Andrew P. Harris.

A poll during the primary proved wildly inaccurate.

Over this final weekend of campaigning, both supporters and opponents of slots fanned out across the state, knocking on doors and handing out pamphlets.

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