Millions more spent to persuade voters to approve sports betting in Maryland

Pamela Wood, The Baltimore Sun
·3 min read

Pro-gambling groups have spent another $1.6 million trying to convince Marylanders to approve sports betting, on top of $2 million they previously spent.

MGM Resorts, which has a casino at National Harbor in Prince George’s County, has joined the effort with a $500,000 contribution to a group called Vote Yes on Question 2. The question is on ballots statewide in Tuesday’s general election.

In a statement, MGM said that sports betting is a “significant opportunity” for the state because it will “drive revenue to help fund education.”

The Vote Yes on Question 2 group also received $750,000 more from FanDuel and $500,000 more from DraftKings, according to the group’s latest campaign finance report. Those two companies, which offer online platforms for sports betting, had already put $2.75 million into the referendum campaign.

The group also benefited from more than $100,000 worth of digital, radio, TV and print advertising from the Washington Football Team this month, according to the report, which covered the period from Oct. 5 through Oct. 18.

Heading into the final stretch leading up to Election Day, Vote Yes on Question 2 reported more than $600,000 in the bank as of Oct. 23.

Casinos, betting companies and professional sports organizations are among the companies that could benefit if gambling on sporting events is legalized in Maryland.

If voters approve, state lawmakers would hash out the particulars of who would be eligible for licenses to run the sports betting operations.

The ballot question states that sports betting would be “for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education,” although a formula for how much money might go to public schools has not been established. Nonpartisan estimates have put the potential revenue to the state from sports betting in the range of $20 million.

As other states have legalized betting on sports, high-profile figures in the sports world and the gambling industry have maneuvered to get a chance to profit from such an industry in Maryland, including Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington Football Team. Snyder made a trip the state capital before the coronavirus pandemic to make his case in private meetings with state lawmakers.

The Vote Yes on Question 2 group is chaired by Marissa Coleman, a professional basketball player who was a star for the University of Maryland Terrapins from 2005 to 2009.

Between Oct. 5 and Oct. 18, Vote Yes on Question 2 spent $1.6 million in its campaign, the bulk of it ($1.2 million) going toward media, including TV and radio ads, online ads, graphic design and robocalls.

A second group in favor of sports betting, Fund Our Future, is also active, but with a much smaller investment.

Fund Our Future has done most of its work through in-kind donations of advertising, email blasts and mailers from the Maryland Jockey Club and casinos, including Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, Maryland Live! Casino & Hotel in Anne Arundel County, Hollywood Casino Perryville, Ocean Downs Casino, and Rocky Gap Casino & Resort. The in-kind donations between Oct. 5 and Oct. 18 were valued at nearly $30,000.

Fund our Future also reported spending $30,000 on polling. The group had about $5,300 in cash on hand, according to its Oct. 23 report.

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