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DraftKings, FanDuel have spent $750,000 on campaign to legalize Maryland sports betting on November ballot

An organization funded with $500,000 from FanDuel and $250,000 from DraftKings — the fantasy sports and betting sites — says it is launching a media campaign Tuesday urging voters to support a November ballot question legalizing sports betting in Maryland.

The campaign is launching a website and airing a broadcast and cable advertisement in Baltimore. The campaign, which soon will include ads in the Washington market, is sponsored by an advocacy group called “Vote Yes on Question 2” chaired by Marissa Coleman, a former University of Maryland and WNBA basketball star.

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The “Vote Yes on Question 2” organization received $250,000 from Boston-based DraftKings in July, according to state campaign finance records. The report covered the period from June 26 to Aug. 18.

FanDuel contributed $500,000 early this month, the New York-based company said Tuesday.

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“We think this is a great opportunity for Maryland to bring revenue home from other nearby states that have authorized sports wagering,” the company said in a statement to the Baltimore Sun. “We’re hopeful we can bring FanDuel Sportsbook to Maryland in 2021.”

DraftKings and FanDuel are fantasy sports operators that have expanded into sports betting in states in which it is legal. In fantasy games, participants pay to draft actual players in football, baseball and other sports and then accumulate points based on their statistical performances. Participants typically pay an entry fee and compete for prizes.

“Sports betting has been going on forever,” Coleman said in an interview from France, where she still plays professionally. “It’s not like Marylanders aren’t betting on sports. This gives us the opportunity to regulate it and make sure there is protection in place for the consumer.”

Marylanders have bet on games for years on offshore sites and, more recently, in Delaware, New Jersey, West Virginia, the District of Columbia and other jurisdictions that have launched sports wagering since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a congressional ban in 2018.

In March, a bill to put the question to Maryland voters was approved by the General Assembly. Gov. Larry Hogan did not sign or veto the measure, allowing it to become law.

Sports betting legalization has been backed in the state by Maryland casinos, sports teams, fantasy sports sites and others. If Question 2 is approved, it remains to be decided in Annapolis next year which entities — such as casinos or racetracks — would be permitted to offer sports wagering and how the betting would be conducted.

Question 2 reads only: “Do you approve the expansion of commercial gaming in the State of Maryland to authorize sports and events betting for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education?”

The “Vote Yes” group website says sports betting would raise an estimated $40 million a year in tax revenue for Maryland. It says the “the majority if not all of the funds raised will be spent on education.”

The Maryland State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers' union, won’t take a position on the referendum until its annual convention in October, said Sean Johnson, the group’s executive director.

“We know we have significant unmet funding needs,” Johnson said Monday in an interview.

The sports betting proposal “is by no means a complete solution to our education funding crisis. It could be part of a multi-faceted solution,” Johnson said.

It is uncertain if organized opposition will emerge to legalizing sports betting before the Nov. 3 election.

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Before the measure passed the General Assembly, Del. Nick Mosby of Baltimore had expressed concern that the sports betting license structure could exclude racial minorities or women.

The measure that was approved includes a requirement that a “disparity study” be conducted that could lead lawmakers to include legislative provisions giving preference to underrepresented groups in the licensing process.

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