An organization funded with $500,000 from FanDuel and $250,000 from DraftKings launched a media campaign Tuesday urging voters to support a November 3 ballot question legalizing sports betting in Maryland.
The first television ad of the effort aired Tuesday, featuring individuals who organizers said are public school teachers. They tell voters that the coronavirus pandemic has made it more important than ever to fund education and close the digital divide, and that legal sports betting is a partial solution.
“Sports fans in Maryland are ready — and waiting — to bet on sports legally,” DraftKings said in a statement, as reported by The Washington Post. “Legalizing sports betting will allow for a customer-centric experience and shut down illegal sites that offer no consumer protections. It will also keep money in Maryland that’s currently going to legal markets in neighboring states.”
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.
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. “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.”
“Sports betting has been going on forever,” Coleman said 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.”
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.”
With Maryland’s casinos shut down from March through mid-June, gambling revenue nosedived. The industry’s annual contribution to school funding declined by 27 percent compared with the year before, dropping beneath $400 million for the 2020 fiscal year.
So far, no opponents have filed paperwork with the state indicating they have raised money to fight Question 2.