Poll Shows New Yorkers Are Completely Split Over Online Sports Betting

split opinion

A poll released this week shows that New Yorkers strongly believe that the U.S. is headed in the wrong direction, that doctors in some cases should be allowed to grant a dying patient’s wish for a lethal injection, and that the $3 billion tax incentive to bring Amazon to New York City is worth it (although local opposition led Amazon to cancel that plan on Thursday).

But the same Siena College poll found a startlingly consistent even split among state voters on the topic of online sports betting.

How even? The overall numbers are 44% in favor, 44% opposed, 12% unsure.

Usually in these polls, different groups have significantly differing attitudes on topics; for instance, all of the politically tinged questions broke out that way.

But here, party affiliation barely mattered. Republicans supported online betting 45%-42%, Democrats opposed it 45%-43%, and independents were in favor by a margin of 47%-46%.

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Suburbanites are in favor of online sports betting by 48%-41%, while New York City residents mirrored the overall 44%-44% split. Upstate respondents are narrowly opposed, 46%-42%.

Ethnicity doesn’t matter here

African-American support is 44%-42%, white backing is 45%-44%, and there is a Hispanic split of 46%-46%.

Catholic support at 49%-41% was countered by Protestant resistance at 51%-44%, while there was a Jewish split at 41%-41%. “Others” favored online sports betting at 44%-42%.

There were a handful of double-digit splits — but they weren’t as wide as is typically seen in these polls. Women are opposed by 51%-37% while men supported it by a 53%-35% margin, maintaining a classic gender split on most gambling that goes back at least a half-century.

Another classic trend lives on here, too. While those age 18-34 are in favor of this betting by a 51%-33% margin and those age 35-54 have similar 55%-37% support, older folks oppose by a significant 58%-32% figure.

Perhaps the most interesting and non-intuitive results came on the sector of income.

Those whose household incomes are $100,000 or more show 54%-38% support, those at the $50K-$100K level oppose at a 48%-41% clip, and those under $50,000 show 50%-36% opposition.

Union households (51%-38% for) were more supportive than non-union households (47%-42% against), presumably because of an expectation of increased employment opportunities.

What it means

This is not a case where a “tie” is a neutral result.

The New York legislature so far has not shown a strong interest in bringing online sports betting to the state — even though roughly 10% of the $385 million wagered in New Jersey in January alone is believed to have come out of New Yorkers’ pockets as they crossed the Hudson River or other state boundaries before returning home.

Legislators who want to make this push with disinterested colleagues could really use a poll that shows widespread support for online sports betting. Instead, this shows no path at all.

The road to online sports betting already is liable to be a long one: Both Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state’s Gaming Commission have concluded that a Constitutional amendment is needed to allow for sports betting beyond the state’s four new upstate casinos (while Native American casinos retain the right to offer any form of gambling that those casinos can).

This means that, barring an unlikely twist, the Legislature would need to pass bills favoring such a direction by this June, then again next year, and then have statewide voters decide on the issue in Nov. 2021.

It’s worth noting that even if a distracted Legislature can be won over — twice — this poll underscores that the referendum would be no sure thing.

Mudslinging awaits

If public sentiment is mixed on expanding sports betting already, what might happen if opponents pour millions into negative campaigning?

The blueprint already is out there. In 2016, a New Jersey ballot question on whether to add up to two new casinos in the northern half of the state was torpedoed by a “Trenton’s Bad Bet” marketing campaign that helped produce an overwhelming defeat for the measure.

A New York PR battle might be even more complicated. For instance, Yonkers Raceway and Aqueduct racinos spent millions in the “Trenton’s Bad Bet” campaign to avoid a possible cannibalization of some of their revenues by, in their worst-case scenario, a Meadowlands casino.

If those racinos aren’t assured a piece of the new legal online sports betting market, how will they respond? And would online sports betting operators in New Jersey find it worth spending some cash on a campaign to keep those New Yorkers crossing the border, if they are skeptical about getting a place at the table in the much larger New York market?

Meadowlands Racetrack operator Jeff Gural, meanwhile, would be in a tricky spot on a New York online sports betting referendum: He has a deal already in place with PointsBet to offer online sports betting via his Tioga Downs upstate casino once it is permitted, but in the meantime Gural profits handsomely from the online New York ban via visitors to his racetrack and to his FanDuel and PointsBet online betting sites in New Jersey.

The fine print

The text at the bottom of the Siena poll reads as follows:

The Siena College Poll was conducted February 4-7, 2019 by telephone calls conducted in English to 778 New York State registered voters. Respondent sampling was initiated by asking for the youngest male in the household. It has an overall margin of error of +/- 4.3 percentage points including the design effects resulting from weighting. Sampling was conducted via a stratified dual frame probability sample of landline and cell phone telephone numbers (both from ASDE Survey Sampler) from within New York State. Data was statistically adjusted by age, party by region, and gender to ensure representativeness.

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