Advertisement

Editorial: Maryland should approve sports betting for education funding

The Baltimore Ravens are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2014 and hosting a game for the first time since 2012, when the Los Angeles Chargers come to town today. With the team’s recent hot streak, winning six of seven games since rookie Lamar Jackson took over at quarterback, we suspect a lot of the team’s fans are feeling optimistic about the Ravens making a Super Bowl run.

With 20 to 1 odds to end the season with the Lombardi Trophy held high, the Ravens aren’t a bad bet. And if you’re willing to travel to a casino in nearby Pennsylvania, West Virginia or Delaware, you could make that wager. But don’t plan to go to Horseshoe, Rocky Gap, Live! or any of Maryland’s three other casinos to plunk down a few dollars on the hometown team. Not this year anyway.

Advertisement

Back in the summer, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the federal government could not prevent states from endorsing sports betting. Within months, neighboring Pennsylvania and West Virginia casinos added sports books, and Delaware did so within a few days of the ruling (it had previously allowed parlay wagers on NFL games, requiring bettors to choose winners of at least three games).

Maryland, however, remains on the outside looking in, just as it did with slots legislation years ago. When the General Assembly reconvenes for the 90-day session on Wednesday, one of the matters it is expected to debate is sports gambling.

House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch, an Anne Arundel County Democrat, is proposing sports betting as a means to raise money for education funding, according to The Baltimore Sun.

“Hopefully, we can expand sports betting and dedicate that money to the education fund,” Busch told the Sun. “It’s not going to bring us a whole lot of money for the state. But it makes the existing casinos more competitive with surrounding states.”

Education funding is arguably the No. 1 issue to be debated during the session, as lawmakers try to figure out how to increase revenues for the nearly $4 billion in education reforms proposed by the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, more commonly referred to as the Kirwan commission.

While Gov. Larry Hogan has said the commission’s price tag is too high and has expressed frustration over its inability to rework funding formulas for school, as we know all too well in Carroll County, the cost of public education continues to go up even without major reforms driving those costs.

Already, the state has made plans to use money from casino revenues from slots and table games to supplement education funding over the next few years and going forward. As Busch correctly notes, the sports betting revenues won’t be the only answer to funding the Kirwan commission’s recommendations, but every bit helps.

It also helps ensure that sports bettors don’t take their business elsewhere — after all, a lot of people who come to a casino don’t just bet on one thing. Someone who comes to play blackjack might also throw $20 on the Ravens game and spend a few dollars on a slot machine. Making sure Maryland’s casinos are keeping up with those in surrounding states ensures other gambling revenues for education don’t dry up.

Advertisement
Advertisement