By a 2-1 margin last month New Jersey voters approved a ballot question to change the constitution to allow sports betting at Garden State racetracks and casinos.

Today, a new Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind poll asks voters nationwide what they think of the idea for their states.

Even though New Jersey voters rushed to embrace sports betting in their recent referendum, voters across the country are not quite ready to join them, but new data suggest that the country may be moving in that direction.

“Right now, voters nationwide split 42%-42% on the question of whether to follow us and embrace sports betting,” says Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll. “A year ago, before New Jersey passed this measure the country was against it 53%-39% so that’s a fairly decisive margin.”

While support increased only by 3 percentage points, the opposition melted by 11 points, and the percentage of those unsure, or with a mixed opinion doubled (16%). Woolley says, “One reason for the change in public opinion might be that New Jersey is pushing the issue. More people will wonder whether it’s an opportunity for their state too.”


Men and women have opposite views on the question. Men favor the idea by margin of 49%-37%, while women oppose the notion by a similar margin, 47%-35%. There are significant age differences too. Voters under 45 favor the idea. Voters 45 and older oppose it, but the groups most strongly in favor of it are those whose household’s already do it. Voters in households where people already bet on sports, or participate in an office pool, approve overwhelmingly of the idea (71%-23%). Voters in households where no one bets on sports oppose the notion (46%-36%).

“Gambling has become, for good or ill, a national industry, and you can bet that politicians and casinos all over the country are closely following New Jersey’s plans,” explains Woolley. “The public will get interested too, if it is held up as a great new source of revenue.”

Almost 20 years ago the federal government gave New Jersey one year to pass a bill to allow sports betting, but the deadline came and went and no such measure was approved. Under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act it is currently unconstitutional for the Garden State legalize sports wagering in casinos and racetracks. It will take a change in federal law for it to become a reality in New Jersey.

When it comes to the question of internet betting national voters see as a distinctly different proposition. By a robust two-to-one margin (60%-28%) voters nationwide oppose the idea of allowing casinos in their state to run betting games online for folks in their state. That opposition is little changed from the previous measure in 2010.

Both men and women oppose internet betting: men by 55%-35% and women by 65%-22%. But again those who are already sports bettors, or enjoy the office pool, favor internet betting too (50-44), while voters who aren’t already busy placing bets are opposed to internet betting by a wide margin (64-20). “Sports betting is a big enough change for people to get behind and get used to,” says Woolley. “Internet betting may just be the final frontier.”

The poll of 855 registered voters nationwide was conducted by both landlines and cell phones from Nov. 29 through Dec. 5, 2011, and has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points.