- Associated Press - Monday, March 24, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - There is statewide support for expanded casino gambling and for a contentious power line transmission proposal, a survey conducted for the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce shows.

Chamber President Chris Williams said Monday that the poll taken by the University of New Hampshire found 58 percent of people surveyed wanted to expand gambling. Most - 43 percent - said a casino should be located in the southern part of the state, according to the survey that was taken in February, before last week’s House vote against expanding casino gambling.

Williams acknowledged that legislative hurdle has been persistent and is a tough one to clear before a new casino could be a reality in New Hampshire.

“Even though that vote went the way it did, we believe the issue is still very much alive,” Williams said.

The survey also found 46 percent of those polled supported the Northern Pass electrical transmission proposal while 35 percent opposed it. Support for the $1.4 billion, 187-mile project was strong in the south, where the Canadian hydropower would end up, and weak in the north where landowners fear falling property values and a ruined natural beauty.

“It certainly isn’t the silver bullet that’s going to solve all our energy price issues in New England but I certainly think it can go a long way toward alleviating the problem,” Williams said.

Forty-two percent of those surveyed opposed burying the lines, something that has been floated as an alternative. The legislature is currently working on bills to suggest burial when no reasonable alternative is available. The survey found 28 percent supported burying the lines, including 19 percent who would be willing to pay for the added cost on their utility bills.

“We’re pleased to see that this Nashua Chamber/UNH poll reflects what we’ve been hearing on the ground as a part of our outreach efforts in recent months,” said Lauren Collins, a spokeswoman for Northern Pass. “The more people learn about the Northern Pass, the more they support the project and its benefits.”

Project opponents, however, said the poll numbers show that despite a recent run of advertising in support of the project, people still don’t want the Northern Pass.

“All that money for TV ads and that’s the best they can do?” said Jack Savage, a spokesman for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. “The people in the communities who would suffer greatest from Northern Pass remain staunchly opposed and are preparing for a long legal battle.”

The survey found a closer split on the question of whether to hike the state’s gas tax by 4 cents, as is currently proposed in the legislature. Forty-nine percent opposed the gas tax increase while 44 supported the hike as long as all the revenue was used to fix roads and bridges.

There also was strong support for expanding commuter rail into southern New Hampshire. Of those polled, 68 percent favored and expansion while 7 percent opposed it and 24 percent were neutral or didn’t know enough about it to form an opinion.

The telephone survey of 519 adults was conducted between Feb. 11 and Feb. 19 and had a margin of error of 4.3 percent.

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