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N.J. Voters Oppose Christie’s Atlantic City Takeover, Poll Says

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey. Photographer: Jin Lee/Bloomberg

Voters in New Jersey are against Governor Chris Christie’s proposal to assume control of Atlantic City’s boardwalk and the area around its 11 seaside casinos to help them prosper, a Quinnipiac University poll said.

Voters statewide oppose the plan 46 percent to 33 percent, according to the survey released today. On July 21, Christie said taking over policing around the casinos would help them stay viable as competition grows from new gambling houses in the mid-Atlantic region. Opposition was lower among those who live near Atlantic City, 40 percent to 37 percent, the poll said.

Republicans supported the idea 46 percent to 34 percent while Democrats opposed it 55 percent to 26 percent, the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute said. Christie, the first Republican to be elected governor in the state since 1997, has said he wants to attract visitors to the city’s beaches and trademark boardwalk, not just gamblers. Casinos have struggled as gaming revenue dropped 25 percent from 2006 to 2009.

“Bring back romantic-enchantment Atlantic City, New Jerseyans say,” Maurice Carroll, the institute’s director, said in a statement with the survey results. State voters favor the bid to draw more beach-oriented tourists to the area, 69 percent to 25 percent, according to the survey. “They want the place to be revived as a beach and boardwalk mecca,” Carroll said.

Voters draw a line at the state overseeing police and development in the area, Carroll said. “They don’t like the proposed state takeover. There’s a political split -- Republicans are tepidly in favor; Democrats are heavily against.”

Tourism District

Christie, 47, has called for the state to carve out a tourism district around the casinos and a few blocks inland, in which it would have a greater role in policing and development issues. The state also would direct the agency that runs the Boardwalk Hall and Convention Center to attract more meetings and shows.

Atlantic City’s government has failed to improve its image as unsafe and mismanaged, Christie told reporters yesterday in Paulsboro, near Philadelphia.

“That’s why the state needs to be involved in providing certainty for greater investment in Atlantic City,” he said. The casino industry wants to be sure that “government is going to do what it’s supposed to do, which is to provide for the health, safety and welfare of that region, which right now Atlantic City isn’t doing.”

Researchers at Hamden, Connecticut-based Quinnipiac questioned 1,190 New Jersey voters by telephone from Aug. 9-17 for the survey, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

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