Study: New Jersey Locals Do Not Want Casino Expansion Outside of Atlantic City

  • New Jersey residents are unmoved by the recent explosion of gambling in the US
  • NJ casinos posted combined year-to-date revenues of $2.13bn as of September
  • Expansion plans would need three-fifths of Senate and General Assembly support 
  • The public gets the final vote and has been polling consistently against casino expansion
Atlantic City aerial view
A study has revealed that the majority of New Jersey residents oppose casino expansion in the state. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Majority disapproval

New Jersey residents do not want to see local casinos expand outside Atlantic City.

“rare bipartisan accord”

That’s according to a study by Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU), a private institution in Teaneck, NJ. The study noted “rare bipartisan accord” as 51% of locals opposed casino expansion, while only 37% were in support.

New Jersey has been a productive member of the casino and sports betting communities since both were legalized in 1977 and 2018, respectively. However, the recent study shows that a slight majority wants to fly in the face of nationwide pressure amid the gambling boom.

New Jersey casino climate

There are nine casinos in New Jersey, all located in Atlantic City. As of the end of September, those casinos posted year-to-date combined revenues of $2.13bn. Online gambling operations, which were legalized in 2013, have also produced combined revenue of $5.06bn, which in turn generated $879.48m in taxes.

Clearly, New Jersey casinos are not being threatened with extinction, but there is still reason to consider expansion, thanks to the pressure of the Big Apple.

there’s a lot of pressure to open new casinos in Jersey”

“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, FDU government and politics professor and executive director of the survey. “But if the state wants those casinos, they’re going to have to change a lot of minds.”

Casino expansion would require an amendment to the state constitution, which currently restricts casinos to Atlantic City. Both the General Assembly and Senate can propose amendments, which must receive at least a combined three-fifths support from the chambers. If a proposition receives the necessary legislative support, it will go before voters and must receive majority support.

The latest attempt at expansion failed to garner the necessary internal support, flaming out with just 23% support from lawmakers. 

Unwavering stances

FDU commented that the overall objection to casino expansion could be one of the few remaining bipartisan stances. 50-54% of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents that were polled voiced at least some objection to moving casinos into new areas of the state.

The influence of sports betting has also had little effect on voters, who voiced 50% opposition and 37% support to a similar survey in 2016 and 50% support and 42% objection to one in 2014.

None of the arguments that have been made in favor of expansion have made any dent.”

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

Legislators also still have to settle a highly-contentious debate over smoking inside casinos. Policymakers have indicated their desire to ban smoking, but property owners have argued that such measures could cause them to lose customers and slow their recovery from the pandemic.

In addition to gauging feelings on expansion, the survey asked respondents to indicate their feelings about smoking inside casinos. 57% said that they supported the current rules that allow smoking in designated areas, 29% wanted an outright ban, and 12% felt that smoking should be legal in any area of casinos. 
A New Jersey judge also recently struck down a law that had given casinos millions of dollars in tax breaks, noting that the law helped the casino industry without a valid purpose.