Virginians favor legalized betting at horse racetracks by a wide margin, according to a state-wide survey of registered voters by The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The Richmond newspaper today published the results of its poll showing that 54 per cent of those questioned favor pari-mutual betting at race tracks while only 33 per cent were opposed. Another 12 per cent were undecided and 1 per cent did not answer.

Virginia voters will be given a chance to legalize racetrack betting in the Nov. 7 general election. The question was placed on the ballot by the General Assembly after years of controversy in the legislature.

In the survey conducted over a nine-day period beginning Sept. 16, 677 voters selected at random were asked in telephone interviews how they would vote on the pari-mutuel issue if the election were being held on the day of the interview.

The question was asked this way: "Legalizing pari-mutuel betting has been a controversial issue in the state of Virginia for quite some time. A referendum that would permit betting on horse racing in Virginia will be on the ballot in the November election. If the election were held today, would you vote for or against legalized betting on horse racing in Virginia."

John B. Mauro, director of research for Media General, Inc., parent company of the Times-Dispatch, directed the survey and said that age, income, racial and other characteristics of the sample interviewed did not vary significantly from known statewide population characteristics.

The survey was completed before the beginning of what is expected to be an intense campaign for and against pari-mutuel betting.