With industry attention focused on the state of New Jersey and whether governor Chris Christie will sign into law a bill legalising online gambling, a new study released this week produced some surprising results.
Whilst the bill received overwhelming support from state politicians in its passage through both the state Senate and the Assembly, it appears that New Jersey taxpayers are not quite as supportive of internet gambling as one would have thought.
The Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll was made public Monday and immediately grabbed the attention of the media. It purports to show that while the majority of New Jersey residents have no problems with allowing betting on sports, they are not ready to embrace internet gambling.
The poll surveyed a sample of 801 registered voters statewide between February 7 - 13, and was conducted by telephone, using both landline and cell phones. The research team notes that the margin for error is plus or minus 3.5%age points.
A surprisingly large percentage of respondents - 67% - said they oppose allowing New Jersey casinos to run betting games over the Internet for people in the state, while 26% supported the idea.
Men opposed it by a margin of 62% to 34%, and women by a margin of 71% to 18%. 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."
Even respondents who have been to a casino in the past year opposed Internet betting by 65% to 29%, essentially the same margin by which people who haven't been to casino recently and oppose it 67% to 25%. Likewise, people who participate in office betting pools oppose the notion by 56% to 38%.
"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."
When it came to sports betting, there was a far more positive reaction.
53% of those polled said they support changing the federal law preventing sports betting in New Jersey, up from 45% a year ago, and distinctly ahead of the 39% who favoured it in a wider 2010 national survey. 62% of New Jersey residents support the concept of allowing sports betting in Atlantic City casinos and at racetracks, with 70% of male respondents and 55% of women supporting the idea.
Interestingly, the political persuasions of respondents did not seem to influence their perspectives on the topic.
The view that New Jerseyans bet on sports anyway, therefore the government should allow it and tax it, was expressed by 55% of respondents. That's an increase of 9%age points from a year ago.
By contrast, 37% of respondents were worried that opening up sports betting could increase the risk of addiction and corrupt sports - 10%age points fewer than a year ago.
Respondents who bet in office pools were more supportive of sports betting than those who did not.
The poll also tested the semantics of the term "gambling" against the word "gaming", and found that the latter was more palatable in the sense of land gambling, but was viewed as making little difference in an online gambling industry context.
Source: InfoPowa News