At the start of this year there were 12 casinos open and operating in the seaside New Jersey city; but by the end of this month four of these properties—Atlantic Club, Revel, Showboat and Trump Plaza—will have closed. The primary reason why these, and potentially other, Atlantic City casinos have failed is no secret—the establishment of gaming properties in neighboring states, which have siphoned off a large chunk of Atlantic City casino patronage and trade. The result: a 45 percent decline in Atlantic City casino revenue, from a high of $5.21 billion in 2006 to $2.86 billion last year.
Since New Jersey voters approved a referendum allowing gambling in Atlantic City in 1976, the Atlantic County community has been the only site of legal casinos in the state. With the increasing difficulties of casinos in Atlantic City, there has been renewed discussion of expansion to other sites around the state, specifically to the racetracks in the Meadowlands, Monmouth and other northern locales that can intercept some of the New York gambler traffic heading toward Pennsylvania casinos.
However, there is a rather sizeable hitch to this plan—the latest results from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind poll show most New Jersey residents remain opposed to any casino expansion.
According to a press release accompanying the poll, New Jersey residents are currently split on the question of allowing casino gambling outside of Atlantic City, with 42 percent in favor of expansion, and 50 percent opposed. Younger residents—those under 35—are the most likely to favor expansion, supporting it by a 52-38 margin, while voters over 60 are the least likely, opposing it 56-36. Interestingly, voters who had been to a casino in the previous 12 months were not significantly more likely to support additional casino venues in the state than those who had not been to a casino in the recent past.
“New Jersey has a couple of reasons to be skeptical about opening new casinos outside of Atlantic City,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson and an analyst for the poll in a prepared statement. “Increased competition is only going to hurt Atlantic City more, and casinos just aren’t the revenue source for the state that they were 10 or 15 years ago.”
In addition, respondents were asked about specific sites where casino gambling could come if it were allowed: the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park Racetrack. Of the two, the Meadowlands is a bit more popular, with residents narrowly favoring a casino at the Bergen County facility, 47 percent to 45 percent. The idea of a casino at the Meadowlands was especially popular among people who had visited Atlantic City in the past year, with 61 percent favoring such a venue, compared to 43 percent of residents who hadn’t visited any casino recently.
“New Jersey is faced with a quandary in this situation. Adding strategic gambling sites outside of Atlantic City will recover millions of dollars in gaming revenue lost to bordering states but will negatively affect gaming revenue in Atlantic City,” said Donald Hoover senior lecturer at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s International School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. “[But] the Meadowlands, located within minutes of the most densely populated region in the Northeast, has the potential to be a powerhouse revenue generator for New Jersey and a leading casino on the entire eastern seaboard.”
Although the problems in Atlantic City have become more pronounced in the past few years, public support for the expansion of casino gambling has been remarkably stable over time. In 2010, 42 percent of New Jersey—exactly the same figure as now—supported opening casinos outside of Atlantic City. There has been some movement, though: in 2009, only 24 percent favored expansion. The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 819 New Jersey residents 18 and older was conducted by telephone with both landline and cell phones from July 14 through July 21, 2014. For methodology, questions, and tables, visit http://publicmind.fdu.edu.