NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Although Gov. Chris Christie has signed legislation to allow sports betting at racetracks and casinos to try to help revitalize a flagging Atlantic City, many New Jersey residents are not sure the idea is a good bet for the resort town. While 44 percent of New Jerseyans sees sports betting as a plus for Atlantic City, 48 percent is less positive about its value: 31 percent says it will make no difference and 17 percent views sports betting as bad for the struggling resort city, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.
New Jerseyans are even more negative when it comes to online gambling. More than half (55 percent) thinks online gambling is bad for Atlantic City, compared with just 5 percent saying it is a good thing. Twenty-three percent says it makes no difference, and 17 percent is not sure.
Residents split their hands when it comes to permitting casinos in other parts of New Jersey, something state legislators have been discussing. Nearly half of Garden Staters agree with the idea, but 43 percent says casinos should just be limited to Atlantic City. Other residents are mostly unsure, but 3 percent offers that gambling should not be legal anywhere in the state. Support is up 12 points from a similar question asked in 1999, when 35 percent favored a statewide casino industry.
Even as support has climbed for statewide expansion, New Jerseyans still question the benefits of gambling. In 1999, 72 percent saw gambling as good for the state, but today only 33 percent agrees. Thirteen percent says it has been bad and 46 percent says it has made no difference.
Sixty-two percent also does not want to gamble on making Atlantic City more like Las Vegas by allowing alcoholic drinks to be carried and consumed outside of casinos. Just over a third say they would support such a measure, which some have suggested would help.
“In the face of Atlantic City’s troubles, most New Jerseyans no longer think gambling is particularly good for the state,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers. “Nearly four decades after the first casino opened, residents are split on whether gambling should expand and clearly don’t believe some current plans will be of much help to Atlantic City itself.”
Results are from a statewide poll of 842 residents contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Sept. 29 to Oct. 5, 2014. The margin of error is +/- 4.4 percentage points.
An inside look at support for sports bettingThe poll shows a clear partisan split in belief about the benefits of sports betting for Atlantic City. Half of Republicans and independents say it will be a good thing, while about a quarter of both groups think it will make no difference. But among Democrats, 40 percent thinks sports betting will make no difference to Atlantic City, compared to the 35 percent who say sports betting will help. About one in six of all partisan groups see sports betting as bad for the resort.
“Sports betting has become somewhat of a partisan issue in the months of back and forth between the governor, the Legislature, and the courts,” said Redlawsk. “Given Christie’s most recent championing of the idea, the split between Republicans and Democrats is not too surprising, since Democrats are no longer Christie fans.”
Where New Jerseyans live affects levels of support. Fifty-six percent of residents of shore counties say sports betting will be good for Atlantic City; but just 40 percent of other residents agree. Optimism towards sports betting also drops among seniors compared to younger respondents and those in lower income brackets compared to wealthier New Jerseyans.
The more frequently Atlantic City visitors gamble, they more they perceive sports betting as valuable: 62 percent who gamble on most visits sees the value in sports betting, 54 percent of those who gamble on some visits agree. Only 41 percent of non-gamblers in Atlantic City feel the same.
Online gambling seen as bad for Atlantic City
Despite the barrage of commercials touting new online gambling options, there is wide disbelief that online gambling helps Atlantic City, as supporters have argued. Even among those who gamble during most of their resort visits, only 8 percent says online gambling has been good for the city. Fifty-nine percent of these frequent gamblers think is has been bad, and 20 percent says it makes no difference.
Unlike sports betting, there is partisan agreement that online gambling is not good for Atlantic City. Lower income residents are less likely than wealthier ones to think online gambling is bad for Atlantic City, 48 percent to 63 percent for those at the top of the income scale.
Expanding casinos elsewhereProposals to expand casino gambling beyond Atlantic City are not new, but New Jerseyans are much more supportive than they were in 1999, when 35 percent agreed while 54 percent wanted casinos limited to the resort.
Republicans, at 54 percent, and independents, at 50 percent, are both more likely than Democrats (39 percent) to support the idea of casino expansion. More than six in 10 millennials favor the idea, but only 35 percent of seniors over 65 years old agree. A clear majority (57 percent) of residents in households earning below $50,000 a year likes expansion. Fifty-one percent of both suburban and urban residents – those perhaps most likely to benefit from the proposal – say yes to additional casinos in the state compared to about 43 percent of residents elsewhere.
Keep the boardwalks dry
State Senate Republican leader Tom Kean Jr. recently suggested allowing alcoholic beverages to be carried outside Atlantic City casinos, but New Jersey residents nix this idea almost 2 to 1. In true partisan fashion, Republicans (40 percent) are more likely to support the proposal than are Democrats (30 percent); 37 percent of independents agree. Men are stronger supporters, 42 percent to 30 percent, and millennials, at 48 percent, are the top supporters by age.
Visitors to Atlantic City in the past year are stronger proponents of alcohol on the boardwalk than nonvisitors, 39 percent to 32 percent. Among those planning to visit in the next year, 44 percent favors allowing alcohol outside. There is no difference between visitors who gamble and those who do not.
Support for casino gambling slips
Despite New Jerseyans’ increased support for casino expansion beyond Atlantic City since the 1999 poll, they are less positive about the benefits of gambling. The share saying gambling is good for the state has plummeted by 39 points to 33 percent. The key difference: almost half (46 percent) thinks gambling has made no difference to New Jersey, compared to 7 percent in 1999.
Republicans (40 percent) are more likely to say casino gambling has been good for the state compared to independents (33 percent) and Democrats (31 percent). Men are six points more likely to say the same than women. Only 21 percent of millennials agree, compared to 33 percent to 41 percent of other age groups. Those in the lowest income bracket (at 24 percent) are 11 to 20 points less likely than those with higher household incomes to say casino gambling is good for New Jersey.
Regionally, casino gambling receives its greatest support from those closest to Atlantic City: 48 percent of shore residents. More than half of frequent visitors who gamble agree, compared to 39 percent of occasional gamblers and just 20 percent visitors who do not gamble at all.
EDITOR’S NOTE: ATTENTION POLITICAL, ASSIGNMENT EDITORS, Professor David Redlawsk may be contacted at 319-400-1134 (cell), 732-932-9384, ext. 285 (office), or firstname.lastname@example.org until 11pm. Follow the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll on Twitter @EagletonPoll and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RutgersEagletonPoll.