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Maryland votes to legalize sports betting, passing ballot Question 2

The ballot referendum stipulates that revenue generated from sports betting would be used primarily to fund public education.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland is joining Virginia and D.C. among the places where sports betting has been legalized, as voters passed ballot Question 2. The ballot referendum asked voters if the state should legalize sports betting, stipulating that the revenue generated would be used primarily for funding public education.

Betting on sports in most states was illegal under federal law until the United States Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that the federal law was unconstitutional, offering states the opportunity to authorize sports betting.

Under current Maryland law, gambling is already legal at casinos and horse tracks in Maryland, but this measure adds sports betting, which has received nearly unanimous support in both the Maryland State House and Senate, and from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R).

“Question 2 provides a critical revenue source for public education without raising taxes on families and businesses,” Hogan said. “This initiative builds on the very successful ‘Hogan Lockbox,’ which puts casino revenues in a lockbox dedicated to education. We are already funding our K-12 schools at record levels, and this is another way to ensure that is the case for years to come.”

According to Maryland State Sen. Craig Zucker, the measure would bring in millions to the state to be put towards funding Maryland's public education.

"The lowball assumption is that Maryland will get an additional $20 to $40 million in additional revenue from sports betting,” Zucker said.

Zucker said that because the coronavirus caused casinos to shut down, the Education Trust Fund has seen a $150 million loss. He doesn’t think that sports betting can completely fill that hole, but he believes it will make a significant dent.

Those against the ballot measure did not think sports betting is the solution to Maryland’s financial woes.

“The legislature has a spending problem, and the amount of revenue that's going to be generated by sports betting is not going to bail them out of that problem,” Maryland State Representative William Wivell (R) said. “I just think at some point we have to set limits on what we're gambling on. We don't have to bet on everything.”

Given the overwhelming support for the ballot question, the only reason it was even up for a vote is due to Article 19 of the Maryland Constitution. In 2008, Article XIX authorized commercial gaming of slot machines. It also included guidance on approving any changes to or any new types of commercial gaming in the state. According to Article XIX, those new ventures, like sports betting, have to be approved by referendum in a general election.

Gambling companies spent more than $2 million trying to persuade Maryland voters to approve sports betting, according to the latest campaign finance reports.

The passing of this measure could also play a factor in whether the Washington Football Team will keep a stadium in Maryland. Owner Dan Snyder has made public that he wants to have sports betting at the new stadium he plans on building.

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