ifty-three percent of those polled said they support changing the federal law preventing sports betting in New Jersey, up from 45 percent a year ago, and distinctly ahead of the 39 percent who favored it in a 2010 national survey.
Moreover, majorities of New Jerseyans support betting on sports in Atlantic City casinos with 62 percent in favor of allowing it in the casinos and at horse tracks, while 32 percent oppose it. Men favor it by a wide margin of 70 percent to 27 percent and women by 55 percent to 36 percent.
Democrats, Republicans and independents favor it by equal margins. A majority (55 percent) agree that people bet on sports games anyway, "so government should allow it and tax it," an increase of 9 points from a year ago. That's compared to little more than a third (37 percent) who agree that sports betting is "a bad idea because it promotes too much gambling and can corrupt sports," a decrease of 10 points from a year ago.
New Jerseyans who already bet on sports in office pools are more likely than other voters to favor legal sports betting, whether in other states or in New Jersey: By 70 percent to 26 percent they say people will do it anyway, so tax it.
That compares to people who are not in an office pool but who agree by the slimmer margin of 50 percent to 42 percent.
As for Internet betting, 67 percent say they oppose allowing New Jersey casinos to run betting games over the Internet for people in the state, while 26 percent say they favor it. Men oppose it by a margin of 62 percent to 34 percent, and women by a margin of 71 percent to 18 percent. Democrats, Republicans and independents alike oppose it by margins of 2-to-1.
"With increasing competition for profits and tax revenue, it seems the expansion of legal gambling is inevitable," Peter Woolley, the poll's director, said, "but public opinion has historically lagged behind what casino operators and tax collectors want to do."
Moreover, even those who have been to a casino in the past year oppose the Internet betting idea by 65 percent to 29 percent, essentially the same margin by which people who haven't been to casino recently and oppose it 67 percent to 25 percent. Likewise, people who participate in office betting pools oppose the notion by 56 percent to 38 percent.
"People suspect that the Internet makes the barrier for participation in gambling too low," Woolley said, "maybe a little like having a liquor store right at everyone's door."
Pollsters also tested the idea that calling the activity "gaming" rather than "gambling" would make a significant difference in people's opinions. But the industry-friendly term "online gaming" compared to "online gambling" turned out to be the same bet for voters.
The poll of 801 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone with both landline and cell phones from Feb. 7 - 13, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.