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Poll says NJ residents hesitant on online gambling

23 Feb 2011

(PRESS RELEASE) -- A majority of New Jersey voters are willing to allow betting on sports—including football and basketball games—in all states: According to the most recent statewide poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind™, 53% say they support changing the law, up from 45% a year ago, and distinctly ahead of 39% who favored it in a 2010 national survey. Moreover, a majority of New Jersey voters support betting on sports in Atlantic City casinos: 62% say they favor it whether at casinos or horse tracks, while 32% oppose it. Men favor it by a wide margin of 70%-27% and women by 55%-36%. Democrats, Republicans and independents favor it by equal margins. A majority (55%) agree that people bet on sports games anyway, "so government should allow it and tax it," an increase of 9 points from a year ago. That's compared to little more than a third (37%) who agree that sports betting is "a bad idea because it promotes too much gambling and can corrupt sports," a decrease of 10 points from a year ago. Folks who already bet on sports in office pools are more likely than other voters to favor legal sports betting, whether in other states or in New Jersey: By 70%-26% they say people will do it anyway, so tax it. That compares to folks who are not in the office pool but who agree by the slimmer margin of 50%-42%. However, New Jersey voters are not ready to embrace betting by Internet, even for fellow residents: 67% say they oppose allowing New Jersey casinos to run betting games over the Internet for people in New Jersey, while just 26% say they favor it. Men oppose it by a margin of 62%-34%, and women by a margin of 71%-18%. Democrats, Republicans and independents alike oppose it by margins of 2-to-1. "With increasing competition for profits and tax revenue, it seems the expansion of legal gambling is inevitable," said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll, "but public opinion has historically lagged behind what casino operators and tax collectors want to do." Moreover, even those who have been to a casino in the past year oppose the Internet betting idea by more than 2-to-1 (65%-29%), essentially the same margin by which people who haven't been to casino recently oppose it (67%-25%). Likewise, people who participate in office betting pools oppose the notion (56%-38%). "People suspect that the Internet makes the barrier for participation in gambling too low," said Woolley, "maybe a little like having a liquor store right at everyone's door." Pollsters also tested the idea that calling the activity "gaming" rather than "gambling" would make a significant difference in people's opinions. But the industry-friendly term "online gaming" compared to "online gambling" turned out to be the same bet for voters. The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 801 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone with both landline and cell phones from Feb. 7, 2011, through Feb. 13, 2011, and has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points.
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