Aerial Atlantic City Skyline

Aerial view of the Atlantic City skyline, where four casinos closed last year due to ongoing economic troubles. 

Vernon Ogrodnek

It’s not in the cards.

A new poll regarding expanding casino gambling beyond Atlantic City suggests voters will defeat the proposal in a November referendum.

A Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll released Monday says 35 percent of registered voters are in favor of expanding gambling to two North Jersey counties.

And 57 percent are opposed to the amendment, the poll says.

The recent poll suggests New Jersey voters have cooled to the idea since January, when an earlier poll indicated 42 percent supported expanding casino gambling to other areas in the state beyond Atlantic City.

Debra DiLorenzo is president of the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey and chairwoman of No North Jersey Casinos Coalition, a coalition of more than 300 companies, business organization, government officials and citizens.

DiLorenzo expects efforts opposing the ballot question will ramp up after Labor Day, although she would not say yet what sort of advertising campaign that would entail or how much it might raise.

“I would categorize it as formidable. I don’t know how many million will be raised… there’s a lot of entities in the mix that will fund it,” she said.

DiLorenzo said the group is trying to engage coalition members who aren’t already registered to vote to do so.

“We look at his public question as the most important issue for southern New Jersey in the past 40 years,” she said.

Monday's poll indicates New Jersey residents have strong opinions on expanding gambling.

“Favorable attitudes toward expansion have never been part of the landscape. This suggests the supporters of this amendment will continue to experience an uphill battle convincing voters that casinos beyond Atlantic City are a worthwhile investment in local economies,” said Krista Jenkins, professor of political science and director of PublicMind.

Expanded casino gambling in New Jersey could have big impacts on Atlantic City.

In June, Fitch Ratings predicted that as many as four Atlantic City properties could close if casino gambling comes to North Jersey.

“Properties most susceptible to cannibalization include Trump Taj Mahal, Resorts Casino and Golden Nugget,” Fitch said in a statement last month.

Heading into the November referendum, spending on the ballot question by advocacy groups is expected to be significant.

Proponents of the 1976 ballot question spent $1.3 million to support that proposed constitutional amendment. That’s about $5.6 million today after adjusting for inflation, according to the state Election Law Enforcement Commission.

Commission Executive Director Jeffrey Brindle said earlier this year he estimates total spending this year on the casino referendum and two other ballot questions to be between $80 million and $100 million.

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