A new poll finds most Americans oppose Internet and half oppose sports betting, but many have gambled themselves at a casino.
The Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll found two-thirds of those surveyed oppose changing the law to allow bets to be placed over the Internet, and 53 percent oppose allowing bets on the outcome of professional or college sporting events.
Yet the poll also found 62 percent of those surveyed have gambled at a casino at least once. One in three respondents said they or someone in their household had visited a casino within the past year, and one in five participated in an office betting pool.
"It's fun, it's sociable and it's legal, so why not?" said Mauro Muro, a 33-year-old Atlantic City resident who regularly patronizes the city's 11 casinos. "It's good exercise for your brain when you start calculating. You watch your numbers, and you're always thinking."
The telephone poll surveyed more than 1,000 people randomly chosen across the country, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Fifty-four percent of those surveyed said legalized sports betting is a bad idea because it can promote excessive gambling and can corrupt sports. But 39 percent said that because so many people bet illegally on sports already, it should be allowed and taxed by the government.
Sixty-seven percent of respondents oppose legalizing Internet betting, echoing the opinion of Sam Baker, an 81-year-old who moved to Atlantic City from Las Vegas 20 years ago.
"You can go anywhere today to gamble, so why hit bottom with the Internet?" he asked. "I like to see my money come and go right in front of me."
New Jersey is suing U.S. Justice Department to overturn a law that restricts sports betting to only four states — Nevada, where Las Vegas sports books determine the odds for sporting events across the country; Delaware; Montana; and Oregon. Only Nevada and Delaware currently offer it.
"I'm heavily in favor of sports betting," Muro said. "You get more into the games, you follow them more closely, and you're more in tune with all the statistics."
The government carved out a special exemption for New Jersey in 1992, giving it a window to decide if it wanted legal sports betting, but the state failed to enact a law that would have done so.
Poll director Peter Woolley said public opinion on sports betting could change quickly.
"Keep your eye on these numbers," he said. "If some states allow sports betting and profit by it, other states will want to follow."
The poll found 46 percent think casinos have a negative effect on the surrounding community, while 38 percent said they have a positive effect.
It also found Las Vegas is the first place that comes to mind when people think of gambling, with 54 percent of respondents naming it first. Atlantic City was a distant second at just 7 percent, followed by Reno, Nev., and Connecticut at 2 percent each.
In terms of perception, most major gambling resorts in the U.S. got positive ratings. Las Vegas got 49 percent positive versus 23 percent negative; Atlantic City was ranked 46 percent positive and 26 percent negative; and New Orleans scored 43 percent positive and 25 percent negative.
Other gambling destinations scoring positively were St. Louis (35 percent); Biloxi, Miss. (31 percent); and Shreveport, La. (25 percent). Other smaller markets like Connecticut, where Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun operate; Tunica, Miss., and Chicagoland in Illinois were ranked about evenly in terms of positive and negative perception, with a majority of poll respondents having no opinion of them either way.
Only Detroit got a negative rating, with 32 percent of respondents viewing the Motor City and its three casinos negatively, compared with 17 percent who viewed the city positively.
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