As spending on Maryland's gambling expansion nears the $50 million mark, The Sun is introducing a new feature to its Maryland Politics page: the Casino Spend-o-Meter.

The interactive graphic will allow devotees of Maryland political excess to track at a glance the amount of money being shoveled out the door by the ballot committees on either side of Question 7, which would allow a new Prince George's County casino and permit table games there and at other Maryland casinos.

The referendum pits two casino-backed groups against each other: FOR Maryland Jobs and Schools vs. Get the Facts: Vote No on 7.

The "for" side is financed mostly by MGM Resorts International, the prospective operator of a "destination resort" casino at National Harbor. The "no" side is bankrolled entirely by Penn National Gaming, which opposes a casino at National Harbor.  The two sides are using the money to make sure Maryland voters can't escape their messages unless they avoid television, radio and checking their mailboxes through Nov. 6.

The Spend-o-Meter tracks money the ballot committees have actually paid out, based on required reports to the State Board of Elections. The committees also report money as it comes in, and that could be the subject of news items posted in  this space. But for comparison purposes, The Sun is going with actual money spent.

The meter will be refreshed regularly through Election Day as new reports come in. One assurance we can give you is that every update will bring a new record for spending on a Maryland political campaign. The old record of $34 million, set in the 2006 gubernatorial election, was left in the dust almost a week ago.