I’m shocked, shocked, to find gambling going on…

With a tip of the hat to Casablanca, the results of our latest polling are not really surprising.  A majority of New Jersey likely voters say they support allowing betting on sporting events in the Garden State.  Down the shore, the number is highest – 72 percent of those in Shore counties support sports betting, while the number is closer to 50 percent in the rest of the state. Not too surprising though, since Atlantic City casinos and New Jersey’s racetracks would presumably benefit from sports betting.

The legislature has placed a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot for the November 8 general election – you know, the election no one votes in. This is the off-off-off everything year here in the Garden State, meaning the State Senate tops the ballot. Because of redistricting all forty Senate seats are up, as are all 80 Assembly seats. The betting is that when the smoke clears and the 35 percent of voters (or less) show up, not much will have changed in Trenton. (See our release last week on the legislative elections for more.)

The Constitutional Amendment itself also won’t change anything. Even if it passes, which at the moment seems likely, all it does is give the legislature the right to allow sports better with certain limitations. But, and this is pretty important, federal law currently prohibits such betting except in Nevada, Oregon, Montana, and Delaware which have laws that pre-date the federal law. So unless the feds change things, passage of this amendment won’t really mean you can go bet on the Giants or the Jets, or Rutgers football.

The text of our release on support for sports betting is below. For the full text plus questions and tables, click here.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – If the election were today, an amendment to the New Jersey Constitution allowing gambling on sporting events in Atlantic City casinos and at race tracks throughout the state would easily win approval, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Betting on sports events, which will be on the November 8 general election ballot, is supported by 58 percent of likely voters, while only 31 percent oppose. Among Republicans support is even higher, at 64 percent, while 58 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents also favor the measure.

“While it amends the New Jersey Constitution, this ballot measure will not have any practical effect unless the federal government lifts its ban on sports betting,” said poll Director David Redlawsk, a professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Nonetheless, New Jerseyans are ready to position New Jersey to take advantage of any change in federal law.”

Results are from a poll of 903 adults, including a sample of 821 registered voters and 603 likely voters conducted among both landline and cell phone households from Oct. 6-9. The sample of likely voters has a margin of error of +/- 4.0 percentage points, while the registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points.

Shore counties most supportive

Voters living in the New Jersey Shore counties of Monmouth, Ocean and Atlantic are the state’s strongest supporters of gambling on sporting events. Nearly three-quarters of likely Shore voters would support sports gambling, while suburban voters are far behind at 57 percent. Just over half (54 percent) of South Jersey/Camden area voters support the measure, similar to North Jersey urban and exurban voters at 52 percent and 51 percent in favor.

“Supporters argue sports gambling would provide a much needed economic boost to the gaming industry and bring in new revenue to the state” said Redlawsk. “The potential for economic benefit seems to overcome any possible doubts in the part of the state that should gain the most.”

Likely voters in union households are more supportive than those not in unions, 63 percent to 56 percent. Employment status, however, does not appear to have a significant impact on support for sports betting. Those employed full time and those not employed at all have the same level of support at 58 percent.

Catholics are stronger supporters than Protestants

Almost two thirds of Catholic likely voters support sports gambling, while 48 percent of Protestant voters agree. One-quarter of Catholics oppose the measure as do 40 percent of Protestants. Voters who call themselves evangelical or born-again Christians are nearly evenly split; 46 percent opposed and 44 percent in favor.

Frequency of attendance at religious services appears more important than any specific religion, with fewer than half (47 percent) of those who attend services at least weekly in favor of allowing betting on sports. Support steadily increases as attendance declines: 58 percent of those who attend almost every week and more than 60 percent of those who attend less often favor the proposal.

“It’s not all that surprising that while Catholics support this proposal, evangelicals are most opposed,” said Redlawsk. “Economic development needs may well take a back seat to questions of morality among those who are more conservative in their religious traditions.”

Men and younger voters more likely to support sports betting

While more than six-in-10 men support legalized sports betting, only 54 percent of likely women voters agree. One-third are opposed and 13 percent not sure where they stand. Only 28 percent of men oppose the measure and 10 percent are uncertain. Almost three-quarters (72 percent) of younger likely voters supports sports betting while only 23 percent oppose it. Voters at least 65 years old are much more against sports wagering: 48 percent are in favor and 40 percent are against the measure.

“Assuming the likely passage of the amendment, New Jersey voters will send a strong message to the state’s political leaders to continue pressing the federal government for change,” said Redlawsk. “In this economic environment any reasonable opportunity for significant revenue to the state looks pretty good to voters.”


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