FDU Poll: Voters don’t want NJ gaming expanded

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State leaders may be considering expanding gaming beyond Atlantic City, but Garden State residents remain firmly opposed to any move in this direction. The most recent statewide survey of New Jersey adults finds that opinion is largely unchanged about opening casinos outside of Atlantic City, with 56 percent opposed and 37 percent in favor.

Sources say the issue is dead right now, incidentally.

Owing to its unpopularity and at the very least the volatility it would cause as a controversial issue, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) doesn’t want the question on the ballot this year – if at all.

The last time the casino question was asked was in February 2015. At that time, 36 percent favored an expansion with 57 percent opposed. PublicMind has asked this question since 2009 and opposition has always trumped favorability regarding industry expansion beyond Atlantic City.

“The public is questioning the logic behind allowing the spread of casino gambling,” said Krista Jenkins, professor of political science and director of PublicMind. “They don’t seem to be sold on the idea of saving the gaming industry in the state by allowing it to spread.”

A third of residents (34%) say would be more likely to visit a casino in a place other than Atlantic City, assuming they remained in the state. Similar numbers (31%) say that even if casinos were expanded to other parts of the state they would still visit Atlantic City to gamble. Among those who said they would go elsewhere, the Meadowlands is cited he most frequently, and by a wide margin. Sixty-nine percent say they’d travel there, versus 49 percent who chose Monmouth Park, 41 percent who said Jersey City, and 29 percent who chose Newark.

About a year ago, PublicMind asked respondents about expansion to specific locales in the state, including the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park. Opinion was decidedly mixed with 47 percent favoring casinos in the Meadowlands and 43 percent saying the same about Monmouth Park.

“The key to attracting people to other venues as well as Atlantic City, seems to be the availability of non-gaming attractions. People told us things like hotels, restaurants, and concert venues are important amenities when deciding where to go when a gambling is on their minds. Proximity to home matters, but not as much,” said Jenkins. In this current poll, forty percent said non-gaming attractions were the key to enticement, followed by 20 percent who said proximity to home is more important. Fourteen percent say a wide variety of gambling options is what makes a difference.

How to handle additional revenue should gaming expand is a decidedly more divisive question. The same survey asked if respondents favor or oppose sharing tax revenue from other casino ventures with Atlantic City – a recent proposal made in order to try to shore up AC’s dwindling finances in recent years. Opinion is split with 42 percent in favor and 44 percent opposed.

“Combined with opposition to an expansion, these results underscore the difficulty legislators are going to have if they proceed with putting a referendum on the ballot in November,” said Jenkins. Around four-in-ten respondents say they have heard a lot or some about the proposed referendum to allow expansion. “This degree of attentiveness isn’t turning many people on to the idea or the premise that the money can and should be rightfully used in places other than where the casinos are ultimately built.”

Men and those with a recent history of casino attendance are the most likely to support expansion, and men are supportive of sharing tax revenue with AC.  Forty one percent of men support expansion, compared with a third of women (33%), and half of men (48%) favor sharing tax revenue while only 36 percent of women say the same. Half (50%) of casino-goers favor expansion, with 30 percent of those without a recent history at a casino in favor of allowing casinos to open in other parts of the state. Casino- goers are, however, about as evenly divided over the question of revenue sharing with AC as compared with the full sample.  Forty-three percent of casino goers favor it with 46 percent of opposed.

Methodology – The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone June 15-21, 2015 among a random statewide sample of 913 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of +/- 3.4 percentage points, including the design effect.

FDU Poll: Voters don’t want NJ gaming expanded