Nearly a year and a half after many state lawmakers and lobbyists tried to expand gambling outside of Atlantic City, the idea of building casinos in North Jersey still remains a deeply unpopular proposition, even if the revenue is used to pay for some of the new, popular programs Gov. Phil Murphy has proposed.
According to a scientific poll paid for by Trenton’s Bad Bet, an anti-North Jersey casino nonprofit, voters overwhelmingly support three key Murphy ideas to raise revenue in the state, including the legalization and taxation of marijuana, a millionaire’s tax and closing corporate tax loopholes.
Despite the overwhelming support for raising revenue, only 34 percent of voters approve of doing it by opening casinos outside Atlantic City.
“By nearly (a 2-to-1 margin), voters prefer a millionaire’s tax or legalized marijuana over expanding casinos in North Jersey,” a message on the poll states. “In fact, voters believe Gov. Murphy should heed the will of the people on casino expansion.”
In 2016, when expanding casino gaming was at the forefront of political discussions in New Jersey, Murphy supported the idea and endorsed a plan that would have sent some of the revenue from other casinos back to Atlantic City.
During the campaign, Murphy said he still supported expanding gaming, but added any decision on that would have to come from the state Legislature.
“My fear is if there’s a casino on the west side of Manhattan, they won’t send one red cent to Atlantic City. I’d rather that gaming, and those jobs created, be in New Jersey,” Murphy said during a debate with for Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno in October.
“It’s a huge job creator, and we’re desperate for jobs.”
Speaking to a reporters from multiple news outlets in December, state Senate President Steve Sweeney, who favored North Jersey casinos the first time around, said he does not expect legislators to ask residents to expand gaming while he remains in charge of the Senate.
“I don’t see any way it comes back,” Sweeney said, according to multiple reports. “It was crushed.”
But local legislators, most notably state Sen. Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, warned during the campaign that expanding gaming still remained one of the top threats to Atlantic County.
Still, even if lawmakers vote to put the proposition back on the ballot, current polling numbers indicate there is little chance of it passing.
Instead, 73 percent of all voters in New Jersey, including 83 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of Republicans, favor closing corporate loopholes to create more revenue, according to the poll.
“Voters are still tired of Trenton’s broken promises and believe North Jersey casinos are a bad bet,” the polling message reads. “Even after hearing the best arguments for North Jersey casino expansion, voters believe casinos could harm existing Atlantic City casinos and that Trenton politicians will fail to keep their promises.”