A new poll finds New Jerseyans less supportive of expanding casino gambling beyond Atlantic City, and less likely to support a nationwide repeal of a federal ban on sports betting in all but four states.
The Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll released Thursday found 36 percent favor allowing casinos in other parts of the state. That's down from 42 percent who favored it when asked the same question last summer.
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With Atlantic City struggling — four of its 12 casinos shut down last year and its gambling revenue has fallen from $5.2 billion in 2006 to $2.74 billion last year — pressure is growing on state lawmakers to approve casinos in other parts of the state. Proposals include the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, a site in Jersey City just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, and at the Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport.
"The negative news about Atlantic City may play a role in swaying public opinion in New Jersey and elsewhere about the effects of expanded gaming on existing offerings," said Donald Hoover, senior lecturer at the university's International School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.
Gov. Chris Christie gave Atlantic City five years to turn itself around before considering ending the resort's exclusive right to host casinos in New Jersey. That timeline ends in Feb. 2016. Doing so would require amending the state's Constitution.
The poll also found that half the respondents say the federal ban on sports betting in all but a few states should be lifted, with 41 percent saying it should remain in place. In October 2013, the poll found 55 percent favored legalizing sports betting in New Jersey, with only 28 percent opposed.
New Jersey has been trying since 2009 to overturn the federal ban on sports betting in all but four states that met a 1991 deadline to legalize it: Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon. The state took a challenge to the law all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it lost, but is pursuing different legal avenues to try to allow it. An appeals court hearing on the latest effort is scheduled for March 17.
Those who had recently visited a casino or participated in an informal office pool are the most supportive of ending the federal ban. Nearly 7-in-10 office bettors support ending the ban, and 6-in-10 casino patrons say the same.
"As we approach what is arguably the second most popular office pool — the NCAA men's basketball championship — it is not surprising that many of the people participating in these pools would like the option to place wagers on individual games," Hoover said.
The telephone poll of 901 adults was conducted from Feb. 23- March 1 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC