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Bring back Atlantic City as a beach resort: poll

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New Jersey's Atlantic City should be brought back to life by refocusing on its sandy beaches and historic boardwalk rather than increasing state control of its casinos, a poll showed on Friday.

The poll accompanies debate in New Jersey on the future of its struggling gambling industry and ways to generate revenue to shrink the state's yawning budget deficit.

Republican Governor Chris Christie has said Atlantic City's role as a family playground could be improved with boardwalk amusement rides and the like.

But the former federal prosecutor's plan also calls for creating a new state authority to run the fading resort's gambling facilities. The plan proposes selling the Meadowlands racetrack or turning it into an off-track wagering site with no live races.

New Jersey voters said a state takeover of Atlantic City gambling was a bad idea by a margin of 46 percent to 33 percent, according to the Quinnipiac University Poll of 1,190 state residents.

"They want the place to be revived as a beach and boardwalk mecca," Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a statement. "Bring back romantic-enchantic Atlantic City, New Jerseyans say."

Voters frowned on Christie's plan to exit horse racing by a margin of 44 percent to 39 percent, according to the August 9 to 17 poll.

Though gaming revenues are shrinking around the nation, partly because of the recession and partly because so many states have approved new casinos and slot machines, New Jersey voters supported adding slots to the state horse track.

This proposal's support was fairly narrow, however: 47 percent to 43 percent backed slots, according to the poll that had a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points.

(Reporting by Joan Gralla; Editing by Andrew Hay)

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