ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — A new poll finds most New Jerseyans oppose legalizing Internet gambling, but want the ability to legally bet on sporting events.
A Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll released Monday finds 58 percent of state residents are against legalizing online gambling, while 31 percent support it.
But voters, by the same margin, support the legalization of sports betting.
New Jersey lawmakers are moving toward approving both kinds of gambling, saying it would give Atlantic City’s struggling casinos a boost. But concerns over the constitutionality of both measures still linger.
Gov. Chris Christie signed a law allowing sports betting, but it can only happen in New Jersey if a federal ban on it is lifted. The governor vetoed an Internet gambling bill last year, and has not said if enough changes have been made this year for him to support it.
“Online gambling may be a good bet for new state revenue, but lots of voters don’t think it’s a good bet for New Jersey,” said Peter Woolley, director of the poll. “I suppose there is something to be said for losing money without the inconvenience of leaving town, but that’s usually called property tax or alimony.”
Internet gambling bills are awaiting votes in the full state Senate and Assembly. Those bills would let Atlantic City’s casinos accept bets from gamblers in other states and even other countries, provided state casino regulators determine that doing so wouldn’t violate federal law.
There are also concerns by lawmakers about verifying a player’s age, although proponents say there is existing technology available to ensure that only those 21 or over can access the systems needed to gamble online.
Proponents say Internet gambling and sports betting are ways for New Jersey to garner millions of dollars in new tax revenue currently being lost to illegal operators, including organized crime and offshore betting sites.
Christie signed a sports betting bill into law in January. But the real work still remains: overturning the federal ban on sports betting in all but four states.
So far, New Jersey has not moved to sue in federal court to overturn the law.
Women opposed Internet gambling by a 65 to 25 percent margin; men voiced opposition at a 52 to 37 percent rate. The younger a voter is, the more likely they are to support it, but the only age group that supported it in the poll were those 30 and under.
Republicans (58 percent) and Democrats (60 percent) oppose Internet gambling at roughly the same rates.
In terms of sports betting, 60 percent of voters said they want it legalized, with 26 percent opposed and 14 percent unsure.
The telephone poll surveyed 797 registered voters statewide between April 30 and May 6. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.