A majority of registered voters in the state oppose expanding gambling beyond Atlantic City but are divided on whether tax breaks should be given to developers in order to encourage job growth and increase tax revenue, according to the latest Fairleigh Dickinson University poll.
The poll, conducted earlier this month by telephone of 901 registered voters in the state, said 56 percent opposed expanding gambling to other parts of the state. Pollsters said the result was consistent with a poll conducted two years ago by Fairleigh Dickinson, which showed that 49 percent opposed bringing gambling to the Meadowlands race track in contrast to the 42 percent in favor.
“I was surprised the numbers were as high as they were,” Rep. John Amodeo, R-Atlantic, said of the opposition to expand gambling.
The Meadowlands race track and other operators have been lobbying to bring gambling to their facilities, citing nearby tracks that offer that amenity, including Yonkers Raceway in New York. Amodeo, who supports keeping casinos limited to only Atlantic City, said he would have thought more North Jersey voters would support bringing gambling closer to them.
Gov. Chris Christie and Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem, have said they are committed to keeping casinos limited to Atlantic City for at least another four years.
Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cumberland, Cape May, Atlantic, said he believed any expansion of gambling in the state would harm the industry by offering too many venues.
“We’re starting to see it as the cure for everything,” he said. “That will cannibalize the industry.”
Pollsters also said 49 percent of recipients opposed the use of public money to support businesses in Atlantic City while 41 percent believed the state should help Atlantic City developers with tax breaks. The rest said they were unsure. The poll, however, had a sampling error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.
Revel, the newest casino, is set to receive $261 million in state tax reimbursements over a 20-year period. That was approved nearly two years ago by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.
More than two-thirds of those polled said they had heard very little to nothing about the use of tax breaks to encourage commercial development in Atlantic City.
Amodeo said the deal with Revel was a good one for the state because it only takes effect if the casino makes money and the credits would be spent on improving the nearby neighborhood.
“They said they had a commitment to fix the North Inlet,” Amodeo said.
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