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Casino operators: Maryland voters should endorse sports betting | READER COMMENTARY

A gambler prepares to hand over cash at the sports betting window inside the Tropicana casino in Atlantic City N.J. on March 8, 2019. File. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry, File)
A gambler prepares to hand over cash at the sports betting window inside the Tropicana casino in Atlantic City N.J. on March 8, 2019. File. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry, File) (Wayne Parry/AP)

As voters cast their ballots this year, Marylanders have the opportunity to boost state revenues and increase public education funding without raising taxes. To make an informed decision on ballot Question 2, voters need to know all the facts on sports betting (“Millions more spent to persuade voters to approve sports betting in Maryland,” Oct. 29).

Since Maryland voters first approved the opening of casinos in 2008, the gaming industry has become a key driver of economic growth. In 2019, Maryland’s six casinos supported nearly $1 billion in tax revenue, 15,364 jobs and $2.96 billion in economic impact. Casino gaming taxes generated a record $545 million for the state education trust fund — a “lockbox” that guarantees a significant chunk of gaming taxes are solely dedicated to funding public schools.

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Legalizing sports betting would open a new revenue source for a state budget currently under pressure from temporary business closures and economic uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent NPR report, Maryland experienced a $925 million drop in tax revenue — creating a budget crisis Gov. Larry Hogan called, “three times worse than the Great Recession.” Keeping public schools fully funded is a huge challenge in this environment. But according to Governor Hogan, Question 2 will provide a “critical revenue source for public education” and ensures Maryland’s K-12 schools can be funded at record levels “for years to come.”

Question 2 will determine whether Maryland can catch up with neighboring Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia — all of which currently offer legal sports betting (“Question 2 asks Marylanders to legalize sports betting. Where? Which sports? For exactly what purposes? Stay tuned,” Sept. 30). Virginia will soon follow by early 2021. In other words, Maryland sports fans who want to bet on games can easily travel across state lines, sending tax revenues to neighboring states. Question 2 offers a chance to keep these much-needed revenues at home.

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Legalizing sports betting in Maryland would also strike a blow against illegal, offshore betting sites that are completely unregulated, offer no protection to consumers and generate zero tax dollars. This is one reason states have actively embraced legal sports betting since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal ban in 2018. In just two years, 21 states and the District of Columbia have joined Nevada to offer legal, regulated sports betting markets. Americans have wagered nearly $28 billion on sporting events generating more than $245 million in tax revenue.

On all these accounts, legalizing sports betting this November 3 will be a win for Maryland. Now it’s up to voters to decide.

Bill Miller, Bethesda

The writer is president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, a national trade group representing the U.S. casino gaming industry.

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