Poll: People cautious of new casinos

Jun 21, 2005 4:50 AM

New casino developments are popping up everywhere from Niagara Falls to Atlantic City to Las Vegas. And, while this widespread attention, casino development and accompanying tourism boost have done wonders for many local communities, it also creates strong opinions about casino development within the American public.

According to a recent Maritz Poll, 42 percent of respondents agree that building a casino is an excellent way to boost the local economy. However, 67 percent disagree that a city should be able to develop a casino any time it wants.

Additionally, of the 42 percent of people who agree on new casinos being a local economy stimulator, only 21 percent believe a city should be able to build a casino whenever it wants, while 51 percent think there should be restrictions on where they are built.

"This is an interesting phenomenon that exemplifies the diverse opinions on gambling issues among Americans," says Rick Garlick, director of strategic consulting for Maritz Research Hospitality Group. "Many towns and cities with new casinos show an improvement in the local economy due to increased consumer spending levels, but those statistics aren’t telling the entire story as this poll indicates. There is still the issue of casinos being developed whenever and wherever cities choose, and that’s obviously not very popular with the American public."

The Maritz Poll results also revealed that legalized gambling in general is an extremely polarizing topic, with 37 percent leaning favorably toward gambling, 35 percent leaning unfavorably, and the remaining 28 percent neutral.

However, even those who favor legalized gambling believe there should be limits on cities developing casinos anytime they want. In fact, 57 percent of gambling enthusiasts (the 37 percent with a favorable view of gambling) disagree that a city should be able to put up a casino any time it wants.

"As seen in the poll results, consumers are enthusiastic about stimulating local economies as long as it isn’t at the expense of their right to be heard on when and where casinos are built," explains Garlick. "Even people who enjoy legalized gambling and see benefit for local economies don’t think cities should have free reign on building a new casino. For casinos, this means carefully choosing development sites, gaining buy-in from locals and building a strong communications program to educate the public about the benefits a casino will bring to their community."