fdu_public_mind_pollMADISON, NJ - Given the choice, more folks would prefer to spend a couple of days in Las Vegas than any other casino destination in America. According to a national telephone poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind™, 47% of adults nationwide make Las Vegas their top choice.  Many fewer would make New Orleans (10%) or Atlantic City (8%) their first choice. Reno (5%) and St. Louis (4%) rounded out the list.

Atlantic City does much better as a second choice but not any better than other picks. Asked for their second choice, Atlantic City garners 23%, statistically the same as New Orleans (22%) and Las Vegas (21%), while Reno jumps up to 18%.  The only city that doesn’t do well in a second round is St. Louis (5%), home of riverfront gambling.

“Atlantic City is really in a national, if not international, competition for visitors,” said Professor Donald Hoover, who teaches in FDU’s International School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, following a career working for Tropicana in Atlantic City. “Businesses and planners need to start thinking and acting like they’re in a national market.”

Those who pick Atlantic City first or second tend say its best characteristic is the beach (26%), followed distantly by the casinos (11%). They also suggest it is someplace new to go (8%), and some cite the entertainment (6%).

As for those who do not pick Atlantic City either as a first or a second choice, their reasons are scattered. One in ten (11%) simply say they, “like other destinations better” and one in ten (10%) say “it’s too far.” One in four (24%) don’t give a reason.

“The fact that people don’t offer a clear response as to why they do not choose Atlantic City as a destination is really good news,” said Hoover. “It suggests that Atlantic City still has the opportunity to create a positive image.”

Just 4% say the city is dirty or run down and just 3% say it’s because they don’t like New Jersey.

Also good news for Atlantic City is that among residents of the Northeastern states, it places a strong second behind Las Vegas: 22% compared to 39% for Las Vegas. But outside the Northeast, Atlantic City drops into single digits as a first choice.

As a second-choice destination A.C. does well in the Northeast with 25%, but Atlantic City does best in the West where, on the other side of the Rocky Mountains, 30% make A.C. a second pick.

“For years, Atlantic City has been scouring the nearest backyards for customers,” added Hoover. “It’s time the city reached a lot further.”

The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 711 adults nationwide was conducted by telephone using both landlines and cell phones from March 21 through March 27, 2011 and has a margin of error of +/-4 percentage points.