ess than two weeks before election day in the US, legalized sports gambling in Maryland gains traction towards an easy victory.
The campaign to build public support for Question 2, the latest statewide gaming referendum, is well funded and organized, outpolling opposition by almost two-to-one, as reported by WTOP. As of Monday, it has the backing of the state’s governor Larry Hogan.
While there will almost certainly be hundreds of thousands of votes against legalizing sports wagering, political insiders believe a majority will vote in favor of it. “For the most part, people already understand that gaming is in Maryland, and when they see it, I think people will most likely be inclined to support it,” said Sen. Craig Zucker (D-Montgomery), who sponsored a sports gambling bill earlier this year. “Especially since the money will be going to education.”
An Annapolis lobbyist who represents a high-stakes client noted that Marylanders approved slot machine gambling in 2008 and table games in 2012. “Sports betting is just another extension. People that have voted for it in the past will continue to vote (for it),” he said. “It’s been done always in a presidential election year, so the turnout is higher.”
A poll conducted in late September by Our Voice Maryland, a progressive nonprofit organization, found that 52% of likely voters supported Question 2, while 29% opposed it. Nearly one in five voters said they needed more information.
Question 2 only asks voters if they approve of sports and event wagering in general. It does not specify where it would be allowed. Those details would need to be discussed by the General Assembly, which is expected to address the issue in January, when lawmakers reconvene in Annapolis. A bill that sailed through the state Senate in March died in the House of Delegates at the end of the session over a policy disagreement. Backers amended the bill to an up-or-down referendum. Zucker called his bill — Senate Bill 4, which passed his chamber unanimously — “a pretty good roadmap that we can work from.” Others believe the legislature will start from scratch.
The state’s casinos, horse tracks, professional sports teams and others are well-represented by a whos-who of the state capital’s top lobbyists.
Senate Majority Leader Nancy J. King (D-Montgomery) said she hopes whatever bill lawmakers approve is able to keep pace with technology. “We’re already behind as far as technology and what the possibilities are with sports betting,” she said. “I’m just hoping that whatever legislation we come up with, that we’re making the most current, up-to-date decision.”
DraftKings and FanDuel have contributed $2.75 million into Vote Yes on 2, the campaign to boost public support for Maryland’s referendum. According to a campaign finance report filed last week, the committee has spent most of its money on radio and television advertising and direct mail. The campaign released its second ad on Monday. Like the first one they released, it deals almost entirely with the benefits of expanded funding for education.
Gov. Hogan’s statement of support on Monday suggested he will embrace any bill they pass. “Question 2 provides a critical revenue source for public education without raising taxes on families and businesses,” he said. “…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.”
In an interview with NBC Sports Washington, Hogan said the economic downturn makes sports wagering more appealing. “Right now, as states are really lacking revenue, it’s another potential source of revenue, and it’s much more likely I think to happen.”