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Maryland voters to decide on plan to reserve casino revenue for improving education

Voters in November will get to decide whether to approve a mechanism to prohibit the state from spending casino revenues on anything other than K-12 education.

The General Assembly gave final approval Friday to a measure proposing a constitutional amendment that, if passed, would eventually bar the state from using gambling money from the state’s six casinos for projects other than education. As a constitutional amendment, the measure does not require Gov. Larry Hogan’s approval but will go directly to referendum. The measure passed both chambers by wide margins.

The amendment calls for a phase-in period under which all annual casino revenues, projected to be $517 million, would have to be devoted to supplementing education spending by July 1, 2022.

The legislature bypassed proposals, including one from Hogan, that would have adopted a similar so-called “lockbox” requirement by state law. Lawmakers decided that approach would make it easier for future legislatures to raid the “lockbox.”

Proponents said the amendment would fulfill the intentions of voters who approved ballot questions in 2008 and 2012 to expand gambling in Maryland. They say the ballot questions were sold to voters with the implied promise that casino revenues would be set aside only to improve education.

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