Hardrock Meadowlands. Liberty Rising. ACR 300, the New Jersey Northern Casinos Amendment. If you’ve been following the latest New Jersey gambling news, you know that the reality of a casino in northern New Jersey is closer than ever. Even longtime opponents of the prospect of expanded casino gambling, including Governor Christie, are on board.
But what about the people? A recent Leigh Dickinson University Public Mind poll tells a drastically different story: most New Jersey voters do not want to expand casino gambling beyond Atlantic City. The poll found that of the voters surveyed, 56% oppose expanding gambling to other parts of the state while only 37% support such a measure. The same poll went on to ask respondents about how their gambling habits and thoughts would change if new casinos were to open outside of Atlantic City. 34% of respondents said that they would consider gambling at another casino, while 31% responded that they would continue to play in Atlantic City. 42% were in favor of any new casinos sharing their revenue with those in Atlantic City while 44% oppose this type of revenue sharing. Of the voters who said they would gamble outside Atlantic City, most said they would like to see a casino open in the Meadowlands. Monmouth Park was the second-most popular proposed destination, followed by Jersey City and Newark.
The People Haven’t Budged
The last time Fairleigh Dickinson surveyed the New Jersey public about casinos beyond Atlantic City, in February 2015, the response was more or less the same at this recent poll.
And it’s the people whose opinions matter. As we discussed in a previous piece, it’s up to the state Senators to move ACR 300 through the Senate by August 3rd to have it on the general ballot this November. But once they’ve done their part, the bill’s fate is in the people’s hands. If New Jersey voters don’t want to expand casino gambling beyond Atlantic City, it doesn’t matter what our lawmakers want.
New Jersey Voters: A Tough Crowd for Casino Developers
Recent polls found that most New Jersey voters don’t want new casinos outside of Atlantic City. This isn’t completely surprising, knowing the history of voter response to legalized gambling in New Jersey over the years.
The initial version of the Casino Control Act, the act that eventually legalized casino gambling in New Jersey and built Atlantic City, was rejected by voters at first. Initially, it asked voters to approve of legalized casino gambling throughout New Jersey. Two years later, voters approved of a revised, stricter version of the Act.
In the decades since, more gambling advancements have been delayed and blocked by politicians’ interests and in some cases, the voters. Legalized sports betting was first introduced for New Jersey in 1993, but was killed before it could reach the people. Sports betting was finally legalized in 2011, with only 64% voter approval. Online gambling, the greatest advancement for New Jersey’s legal gambling marketplace since the first casinos opened in the 1970s, didn’t even have the chance for voter approval. It passed through legislature and was approved by Governor Christie in 2013. In a 2011 Fairleigh Dickinson Public Mind poll, New Jersey voters were largely opposed to internet gambling (67%).
We’ll see what the voters think this November. As it stands, ACR 300 still has to pass in the Senate this summer. Then, it’s up to us to determine the next chapter for casino gambling in New Jersey.