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November 19. 2012 10:48PM

Survey: Loudon residents OK with night racing at speedway, split on casino question

LOUDON - An unscientific survey of residents shows strong support for the idea of New Hampshire Motor Speedway installing lights and holding night races, though the votes were split on building a casino at the track.

The survey was conducted in September as part of the town's master plan update. It was designed to gather input from residents about potential changes and improvements in town in the coming decade. Several questions were added to the survey by the speedway, as speedway officials wanted to gauge public opinion on night racing, which could alleviate traffic caused by Sunday afternoon races, said Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager.

The speedway has no immediate plans to install lights, which would require a $3 million to $5 million investment for the company's parent, Speedway Motorsports, Gappens said. The company already has made that investment at six of its eight tracks across the country, he said.

Gappens has also said the speedway would be an ideal place for the state to place a casino. Proponents of casino gambling in New Hampshire have been trying to pass legislation allowing casinos for years, and there is support for it in the Legislature.

Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan has also voiced support for placing a casino somewhere in the state as a means of collecting revenue and creating jobs.

The survey was conducted via the town's website, and notification mailings were sent to the town's approximately 5,300 residents, said Donna White, the town's administrative assistant.

There were 380 participants in the survey; 343 identified themselves as town residents. The town did not verify whether the survey respondents were actually residents, as it was meant to be an informal, informational survey.

"Anyone could have gone online with a valid email address and taken it," White said of the survey.

Among the questions: "Would you support a Saturday night NHMS race to shorten a race weekend's impact on the area?"

Of those responding, 198, or 58.1 percent, answered "yes," while 121, or 35.5 percent, said "no." Twenty-two said they had no opinion.

To the question, "Should Loudon consider allowing New Hampshire Motor Speedway to build a casino on (its) property if future state legislation permits it?" a total of 181 respondents, or 50.7 percent, answered "yes," while 167, or 46.8 percent, said "no." Nine said they had no opinion.

Gappens said Monday that the survey results will be useful to the track.

"It's encouraging to see an open-mindedness in the town, that's a positive," he said.

dseufert@newstote.com



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