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New Poll Indicates Waning Support for Gambling in NJ

A new poll by the Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics can be interpreted as evidence of a general malaise among Garden State residents of all things gambling. Based on the poll results, it would appear that New Jersey residents are becoming more disillusioned with gaming, particularly online gambling.

Here is a breakdown of the poll question by question (Author’s Note: there were several questions in the poll I deemed trivial that are not included in this breakdown).

Question 1: Do you think casino gambling should be permitted in other parts of New Jersey, or should it be limited to Atlantic City?

The results were pretty much split (especially considering the 4.4% margin of error) as 47% of respondents were in favor of expanding gambling while 43% would like to limit casinos to Atlantic City – 3% were against gambling anywhere, and 7% were unsure.

Expansion beyond Atlantic City is a highly contentious issue, and that can be seen in the polling results. Still, expansion outside of AC is definitely gaining momentum as the same question in 1999 garnered only 35% support, with 54% opposed to expansion beyond AC.

Governor Christie has already started the ball rolling on casino expansion, and even Senate President Steve Sweeney (a staunch Atlantic City defender) is starting to explore potential expansion.

As the Atlantic City market right-sizes (the polite way of saying contraction) there may be more support from the public for another casino or two outside of Atlantic City.

One of the people proposing a non-AC casino might be Sheldon Adelson, who said he was very interested in building a casino in the Meadowlands during his G2E keynote.

Question 2: Overall do you think gambling has been good or bad for the state as a whole, or has it made no difference?

On gambling in a general sense, only 33% responded that gambling has been good for the state, down from 72% in 1999. Interestingly, the number of people who responded that gambling has been bad for New Jersey remained the same, 13% in 2014 and 12% in 1999.

The change was in the number of people who were unsure, as 46% of people chose “both, or no difference” in 2014, up from just 7% in 1999.

It would seem that the opinion of gambling in New Jersey is probably at the mercy of economic cycles, but overall these results should be a wakeup call, as it seems New Jersey residents are no longer of the opinion that gambling alone is going to solve the state’s or Atlantic City’s problems.

Question 3: Do you think online gambling has been good or bad for Atlantic City specifically, or has it made no difference?

Definitely the most troubling result of the poll was the question about online gambling. Just 5% of respondents said online gambling was good for Atlantic City while a full 55% felt it was bad.

Only 7% of respondents said they have tried online gambling in New Jersey.

The poll results should be somewhat unsurprising considering Atlantic City’s struggles and the loss of a quarter of their brick and mortar casinos and 8,000 casino-related jobs in 2014, which just happened to coincide with the launch of online gambling – although it should be noted that correlation does not equal causation.

Additionally, the online gaming revenue numbers have been an extreme disappointment after trumped up projections created false hopes for New Jerseyans who now deem the industry as an abject failure – even though the revenue numbers are within the range of conservative projections.

Overall, the optics of online gambling in New Jersey have not been good, and public perception of the industry definitely needs to be addressed.

Question 4: There is talk about allowing betting on sporting events in Atlantic City casinos and racetracks statewide. Do you think sports betting would be good or bad for Atlantic City, or make no difference?

This is an issue that has been in the news a lot lately, with legislators trumpeting how beneficial it could be. This might explain the extremely favorable view of sports betting by respondents, as 44% said they felt it would be good, and just 17% bad, with 31% saying it would have no difference and/or be both good and bad.

Sports betting is seen as the current antidote for Atlantic City, and it seems New Jersey residents agree.

 

 

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Steve Ruddock

Steve is veteran of the the poker industry, first as a player and now as a writer focusing mainly on the regulated U.S. markets and the politics of poker. Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveRuddock and at Google+.

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