Has casino gambling been good for the state? Yes. Has it been good for Atlantic City? Probably. Should the state be involved in reviving Atlantic City? Not so much. These are some of the results of the latest Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll , which also found that ease of access to casinos in other states may be the primary reason New Jerseyans don't "DO AC" more often.
Currently, 64% of New Jerseyans say casino gambling has been good for the Garden State and just 25% say it has been bad. Positive views of gambling's impact are down from the 72% high recorded in a 1999 poll, but similar to views during the first decade of Atlantic City casino operations, when positive views ranged from 58% to 68% of the public.
Just under half (46%) of state residents say Atlantic City is now better off than it would have been if casino gambling had not been introduced 35 years ago. Another 18% say it is worse off because of gambling and 29% say the casinos have been neither a net positive nor net negative for Atlantic City. To the extent that gambling has been a boon, the benefits have accrued only to the casinos, according to 62% of New Jerseyans. Only 33% say that legalized gambling has been good for both the casinos and the people who live in Atlantic City. The number of New Jerseyans who say that city residents share in the casinos' success is 9 points higher than the 24% result in a 1999 poll, but is still in the decided minority.
While more than three decades of gambling in Atlantic City is generally seen as a plus for the state, not all residents are confident about the current economic realities. Half (49%) of New Jerseyans say that Atlantic City casinos have been losing money over the past few years - which is in line with most economic reports - but 39% believe they have actually been making money. Only 26% predict that this economic picture will get better in the next few years while an identical 26% feel it will get worse. Another 44% predict there will be no change in the casinos' fortunes.
The state has recently taken control of a development zone near the casinos and launched a marketing campaign to revitalize Atlantic City's economy. Most New Jerseyans (52%) do not agree with state government involvement in improving the resort's economy. Only 42% agree with the state playing an active role in Atlantic City.
The poll found that Atlantic City is seen as a good, but not necessarily great, getaway destination. Some New Jersey gamblers appear dissatisfied with the amount of non-gambling activities available and the run-down appearance of non-casino areas. But the biggest factor in diminishing return visits is that many people in Atlantic City's target market now have access to similar gambling and entertainment options closer to their homes.
About one-third of New Jersey adults rate Atlantic City gambling (36%) and entertainment (33%) above average and one-quarter say the same about the city's restaurants (25%). About half rate Atlantic City as "average" for gambling (44%), concerts and shows (47%), or restaurants (50%). Only about 1-in-10 rate any of these aspects of Atlantic City as below average. Shopping in Atlantic City is viewed less positively, with just 16% saying it is above average, 40% average, and 30% below average. All of these ratings are fairly similar for state residents who have visited Atlantic City in the past year or last visited more than a year ago.
The poll also asked respondents whether they agree with five different reasons people sometimes give about not visiting Atlantic City more often. Just under half (44%) report that they simply do not like casino gambling. This includes 61% of New Jersey residents who have never visited an Atlantic City casino, 46% who have not visited recently, and even 24% of those who have visited in the past year.
The poll also found that 42% of New Jerseyans feel that there are not enough things to do in Atlantic City besides gambling. This perception is fairly similar regardless of whether one has visited an Atlantic City casino in the past year (40%), longer ago than that (42%), or never (44%).
Similarly, 40% of New Jerseyans say they do not frequent Atlantic City more often because the boardwalks and non-casino areas appear run down. This sentiment is shared by 44% of those who visited Atlantic City in the past year, 38% who visited longer ago than that, and 39% who have never gambled in Atlantic City.
Less common reasons for staying away from Atlantic City are the fear of being a crime victim (33%) and the perception that some places are closed due to Superstorm Sandy (26%).
New Jerseyans who have recently visited casinos in surrounding states were also asked to compare those casinos to their image of Atlantic City. Atlantic City compares favorably to these other casino destinations for the most part, but significant minorities view out-of-state casinos in a better light. Overall, 43% of New Jersey's outward-bound gamblers say that the other states' casinos offer more to do besides gambling, 34% say that Atlantic City casinos are not as nice as those in other states, and 25% say they have a better chance of winning at out-of-state casinos. However, majorities disagree with these perceptions.
There is no difference in these views when those who have recently gambled in both Atlantic City and other states are compared to those who have only gone to an out-of-state casino in the past year. There is a difference in opinion, though, when these gamblers are asked about ease of access. Overall, 36% of New Jersey's outward-bound gamblers say that other casino destinations are easier for them to get to than Atlantic City. This is more of an issue for gamblers who have only visited out-of-state casinos in the past year (48%) than it is for those who have recently visited casinos in both Atlantic City and elsewhere (27%).
"The poll results suggest that many New Jersey gamblers do not see Atlantic City as an exceptional destination compared to casinos elsewhere," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. "And without this star quality, it becomes even harder to attract out-of-state gamblers since they can find similar options closer to home."
According to the poll, 69% of New Jersey adults have gambled at an Atlantic City casino at least once in their lives. This number plateaued in the 1990s after climbing steadily during the early years of legalized gambling. A 1980 poll found that 34% of Garden State residents had visited an Atlantic City casino, increasing to 49% in 1982 and 59% in 1984, before reaching 66% in 1986. It was 70% in 1999.
About one-third of New Jerseyans have visited an Atlantic City casino in the past year, including 9% who have paid three or more visits to the resort, 8% who have gone twice, and 15% who have gone once. In the early days of legalized gambling, Atlantic City drew nearly half of New Jersey's adult population each year - 45% in 1982 and 47% in 1986. This dropped to 39% by 1999 and 32% in the current poll.
Four-in-ten New Jerseyans (39%) say they now visit Atlantic City less often than they did a few years ago, 26% about as often and just 4% more often. Another 31% have never gambled in Atlantic City. Among Garden State adults who have gambled in Atlantic City in the past year, 44% say they go less often than they once did, 45% go about as often and 11% say they go more often.
The poll also found that 18% of New Jerseyans have visited a gambling destination in a nearby state during the past year. Overall, 11% of New Jersey adults have gambled in both Atlantic City and a nearby state in the past year, 21% have only visited Atlantic City during that time, and 7% have only visited an out-of-state casino in the past year. Among New Jerseyans who have visited an out-of-state casino in the past year, 55% say they now go to Atlantic City less often, 37% say they go about as often and just 3% say they actually go to Atlantic City more often than they used to.
Residents from all regions of the state are about as equally as likely to have visited an out-of-state casino in the past year. Residents of the Urban Core counties of Essex and Hudson (42%) and the Delaware Valley counties of Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester (39%) are the most likely to have visited Atlantic City in the past year.
The Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll was conducted by telephone with 806 New Jersey adults from April 11 to 14, 2013. This sample has a margin of error of ± 3.5 percent. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute and originally published by the Asbury Park Press and its sister publications (Courier-Post, Courier News, Daily Journal, Daily Record, and Home News Tribune).
The questions referred to in this release are as follows:
1. Overall, do you think casino gambling has been good or bad for the state?
2. Atlantic City’s first casino opened 35 years ago. Do you think Atlantic City is now better off, worse off, or about the same as it would have been if gambling had not been allowed?
3. Do you think that gambling has been good for both the casinos and the people who live in Atlantic City, or has it really only been good for the casino hotels?
4. Based on what you may know, have Atlantic City casinos been making money or losing money over the past few years?
5. Do you think the casino economy in Atlantic City will get better, get worse, or stay about the same over the next few years?
6. Do you agree or disagree that state government should be involved in improving the Atlantic City casino economy?
7. Would you rate Atlantic City above average, average, or below average as a place to go for [READ ITEM]? [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]
Concerts and shows
8. Have you ever gambled at a casino anywhere in the United States?
9. Have you ever gambled at an Atlantic City casino?
10. Thinking back over the last 12 months, about how many times have you been gambling in an Atlantic City casino?
11. Do you now visit Atlantic City more often, less often, or about as often as you did a few years ago?
12. Thinking back over the last 12 months, about how many times have you been gambling at a casino in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, or other nearby state?
13. I’m going to read you some reasons people have given for not going to Atlantic City. For each one, please tell me whether it is, or is not, a reason you do not go to Atlantic City [more often than you do now]? [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]
Don’t like to gamble in casinos
Afraid of being the victim of crime
Not enough things to do other than gambling
The boardwalk and other non-casino areas are run-down
Some places are closed because of Superstorm Sandy
[Question 14 was asked of those who have been to OTHER CASINOS in the last year; m.o.e=±8.0%]
14. Do you agree or disagree with the following statements? [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]
Atlantic City casinos are not as nice as those in other states
You have a better chance of winning at casinos in other states
Casinos in other states are easier to get to than Atlantic City
Casinos in other states offer more things to do besides gambling
The Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from April 11 to 14, 2013 with a statewide random sample of 806 adult residents, including 606 contacted on a landline telephone and 200 on a cell phone. Live interviewing services were provided by Braun Research, Inc. and the telephone sample was obtained from Survey Sampling International. Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey questionnaire design, data weighting and analysis. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Sampling error increases as the sample size decreases, so statements based on various population subgroups, such as separate figures reported by gender or party identification, are subject to more error than are statements based on the total sample. In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.
It is the Monmouth University Polling Institute’s policy to conduct surveys of all adult New Jersey residents, including voters and non-voters, on issues that affect the state. Specific voter surveys are conducted when appropriate during election cycles.
Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and results by key demographic groups.
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