North Jersey Casino Referendum Facing An Uphill Battle As Poll Shows Opposition Mounting

Written By Steve Ruddock on September 22, 2016

[toc]This November, New Jersey residents will let their voices be heard on what could very well be the most consequential vote in recent state history.

I’m not talking about the TrumpClinton race; I’m referring to a gaming vote, the most important gaming vote since the state first legalized casino gambling back in 1976.

Earlier this year, the New Jersey Legislature passed a bill that would allow up to two casinos to be built in North Jersey, but as with all expansions of gambling, the final say is in the hands of New Jersey voters. They’ll have their say on Nov. 8.

Since it was first explored as an option many years ago, the issue has been extremely contentious. Now that it’s close to becoming a reality, battle lines are being drawn.

Local and state lawmakers are landing on both sides of the debate, and advocacy groups have been created by each side.

Polling favors opposition to NJ casino expansion

With fewer than two months until New Jersey voters go to the polls, it looks as if the opposition groups are doing a better job of messaging, and it appears Atlantic City will keep its monopoly on casino gambling in the state.

New polling data released by Rutgers Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling shows support has slipped to its lowest point in the past two years. The referendum is trending toward failing in November.

  • 40% support expansion beyond Atlantic City
  • 50% opposed
  • 3% against gaming anywhere
  • 7% undecided

In March 2016 the breakdown was:

  • 44% support expansion beyond Atlantic City
  • 49% opposed
  • 2% against gaming anywhere
  • 5% undecided

The same poll was taken in October 2014, and produced the following results:

  • 47% support expansion beyond Atlantic City
  • 43% opposed
  • 3% against gaming anywhere
  • 7% undecided

One important caveat: The sample size of the most recent poll was extremely small, with just 371 people polled.

The March 2016 poll had 796 respondents (a much better sample size), and 831 people were polled in October 2014.

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Other polling data

Other polling done by Farleigh Dickinson University produced fairly similar results, from fairly similar sample sizes to the first two Rutgers polls.

According to a January 2016 poll by Farleigh Dickinson, 42 percent of respondents supported expansion and 50 percent opposed North Jersey casinos.

In July, Farleigh Dickinson’s polling showed just 35 percent support for the North Jersey referendum and 57 percent of respondents opposed.

A third polling firm indicated support and opposition were evenly split. According to a June poll conducted by Monmouth University, 48 percent of respondents were in favor of expansion and 48 percent opposed.

Voters looking for specifics

One of the key talking points being used by opponents of casino expansion beyond Atlantic City’s borders is the uncertainty of it all. The bill is less specific than many voters would like, especially voters with a case of NIMBY (“not in my backyard”) living in or near potential casino sites.

Not only are the possible locations still up in the air, it’s unclear how much money these new New Jersey casinos would pay in taxes, and how the money would be divided up between the state and Atlantic City, which is in line for a massive subsidy should the new casinos come to fruition.

Should a $3-4 billion casino project pay a lower tax rate than a proposal for a $1 billion casino complex? That’s just one of the questions lawmakers and developers are wrestling with, and the uncertainty is being used to swing voters into the oppose category.

Hoping to put voters’ minds at ease, Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, one of the champions of North Jersey casino expansion, is going to introduce a resolution to help clarify some of these issues, according to local reporting.

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Steve Ruddock

Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.

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