Poll: NJ Residents Oppose Casino Expansion, Full Smoking Ban

A poll of New Jersey voters conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University showed opposition to expanding casinos beyond Atlantic City, and to a total smoking ban in Atlantic City casinos.

A poll of New Jersey voters conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) found that a majority of residents across all political affiliations oppose expanding casinos beyond New Jersey. The same poll found that few New Jersey residents support a total smoking ban in Atlantic City casinos, with the majority saying that limiting smoking, as is done now, is sufficient.

The question of casinos outside of Atlantic City, particularly in North Jersey, has arisen once again as New York City and other nearby locations downstate in New York prepare to welcome casinos.

In the FDU poll, only 37 percent of New Jersey residents said they favor expanding casino gambling outside of Atlantic City, with a bare majority, 51 percent, saying that they oppose such an expansion. Those results spanned party affiliations—50 percent of Democrats oppose it, along with 54 percent of Republicans and 53 percent of independents. Those numbers were in line with a 2016 FDU poll that posed the same questions.

Any expansion of casinos would require a vote on a constitutional amendment in the state; in 2016, such an amendment failed, 77 percent to 23 percent.

“Competition from new casinos opening soon in New York City and the endless search for new sources of revenue mean that there’s a lot of pressure to open new casinos in Jersey,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of government and politics at FDU who was executive director of the poll. “But if the state wants those casinos, they’re going to have to change a lot of minds.

“Views of casino expansion in New Jersey have been crystallized for years. None of the arguments that have been made in favor of expansion have made any dent.”

Older residents, who may remember the initial wave of casinos opening in Atlantic City in 1978, are the most skeptical about opening casinos elsewhere in the state. Only 25 percent of residents 65 and older favor casino expansion, with 65 percent saying that they oppose it. By way of contrast, 47 percent of residents 31 to 44 favor expansion—the only age group where supporters outnumber opponents.

The question of banning smoking on casino floors has been front-and-center, with majorities of lawmakers signing on as cosponsors of a bill to eliminate the casino loophole in New Jersey’s indoor smoking ban. However, according to the FDU poll, few New Jersey residents want to see a total smoking ban.

According to the poll results, most New Jersey residents (57 percent) support the status quo on smoking in casinos, in which smoking is allowed only in certain designated areas totaling 25 percent of the gaming floor. Twenty-nine percent support a complete ban on smoking in casinos, and 12 percent say that smoking should be allowed anywhere in a casino. These figures have not changed much from when the question was asked 13 years ago, in 2009; at that time, 35 percent of New Jersey residents said that it should be banned entirely, with 47 percent saying that it should be limited to certain areas.

“This is a balancing act,” said Cassino. “Smoking bans protect workers from secondhand smoke, but no one wants to risk hurting the casino’s bottom lines and having to bail out Atlantic City. Again.”

Support for a ban on smoking in casinos is highest among older voters (42 percent among those 65 and older), and lowest among young voters (just 14 percent). More educated voters—those with a college degree—are more likely to support a ban (35 percent) than those without a four-year degree (24 percent). As with casino expansion, though, partisanship has no real impact on views of smoking in casinos: Democrats, Republicans and independents are all equally likely to support a ban. 

The survey was conducted between October 24 and November 1, using a certified list of adult New Jersey residents carried out by Ironwood Insights. Respondents were randomly chosen from the list, and contacted via either live caller telephone interviews, or text-to-web surveys sent to cellular phones, resulting in an overall sample of 801 respondents. 174 of the surveys were carried out via live caller telephone interviews and the remainder (627) were done on a web platform via web links sent via SMS to cell phones.