A new poll released Wednesday by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind asked Garden State residents how they felt about placing a question on the ballot asking voters if the state constitution should be amended to allow casinos to operate in North Jersey. The results were somewhat favorable.

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On Jan. 11, 2016, the day before he delivered his State of the State Address, Gov. Chris Christie was joined by State Sen. President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto to announce that a deal had been reached to push ahead in an effort to place a question on the November ballot asking about North Jersey casino expansion.

“We have some potential good news for the governor and the legislature, both of whom have recently been in the news for trying to advance the idea of expanding casinos in New Jersey,” said Krista Jenkins, professor of political science at FDU and director of PublicMind. “Right now, 50 percent (of the New Jersey residents surveyed) say they oppose the idea of casino expansion with 42 percent who they they’re in favor.”

FDU’s PublicMind asked New Jerseyans the same question six months ago. When the latest results are compared to the previous responses, it is clear that support for North Jersey casinos is on the rise and opposition is on the decline.

“In June of last year, 56 percent were opposed and 37 percent said they favored the idea,” Jenkins explained. “The increased acceptance of expanding gambling outside of Atlantic City may be the result of receiving more clarity surrounding recent legislative efforts to allow gambling expansion in New Jersey.”

The latest results revealed:

  • 41percent of Democrats and Republicans supported two north Jersey casinos
  • 50 of Republicans and Democrats opposed the idea
  • 47 percent of men favored casino expansion while 46 percent were against it
  • 37 percent of women supported the idea while 53 percent were opposed
  • 52 percent of those ages 18-34 liked the idea of casino expansion while 39 percent were against it
  • 40 percent of those aged 60+ supported casino expansion while 53 were opposed

“It looks like people are warming to the idea across the board. Opposition is down among all groups,” Jenkins said. “As the details of the legislature’s intentions become known, the public’s opinions will be affected. In addition, gambling interests will launch vigorous advertising campaigns in order to change people’s opinions.”

A north Jersey casino resolution (SCR-1) has already been introduced in the Senate and approved by the budget committee in the Upper House. In order to get the casino question on the ballot this November, the measures must pass both houses by a three-fifths majority. Forty-eight votes would be needed in the Assembly and 24 in the Senate.

“I’m very happy today that we can come to an agreement,” said Sweeney (D-Thorofare) the day the agreement was announced. “We’re not going through the exercise as a game. This is extremely important to the entire state of New Jersey.”

There were two compromises touted. One would require that there must be a minimum $1 billion investment in the new casinos so that a new entertainment destination could be created. The other created timelines would be established for the Atlantic City casino operators that win the licenses to start the process of building casinos or risk losing that license. They would have 60 days to take action on their plans.

“We want to get this right and for me it’s all about compromise and today I think is a great day, not for the people standing here,” said Prieto (D-Secaucus) on Jan. 11. “It’s for the state of New Jersey.”

The poll was conducted by phone from Jan. 4-10, 2016 among a random statewide sample of 902 adult residents. The margin of error is +/- 3.6 points.

Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at kevin.mcardle@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on twitter at @kevinmcardle1.