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Maryland residents divided on sports betting issue

Maryland residents divided on sports betting issue

As Maryland lawmakers mull the next step for sports betting legislation on their agenda, a new poll shows that the state’s residents are close to evenly split on the prospect of wagering on sporting competitions.

A poll conducted of 713 residents by Goucher College shows that 49 percent oppose the expansion of gambling – including sports betting – at casinos, stadiums and racetracks. Forty-five percent of residents want to go all in on sports wagering.

The numbers tick up to 47 percent in support when respondents were asked about allowing online and mobile betting with 43 percent in opposition.

The poll numbers were released as discussions are taking place in the state house about possibly legalizing sports and how its revenues betting might be used. At the top of the list is funding the state’s Education Trust Fund feeding K-12. The Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education has recommended an overhaul of Maryland public schools and revenues from sports betting would go a long way to pay for it.

The poll results showing division among residents are similar to others conducted, according to Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher. Kromer said respondents may or may not have known that lawmakers are considering targeting education with possible tax revenue from legal sports betting.

“They are divided now, but my guess is that because public education is important to people, you’d see different numbers if they made that connection,” she told The Washington Post.

The Goucher poll also cites that most residents are unaware of the education commission’s recommendations, which includes pre-K expansion, higher teacher salaries and increased vocational and job training, according to the Post. The poll also said 69 percent don’t think public schools get enough funding and 64 percent say schools don’t use their money effectively.

The poll was released just a few weeks after lawmakers moved to take back power over gaming issues from voters.

In mid-February, the Maryland Senate voted 46-1 in favor of a measure, Senate Bill 325, to take gambling provisions out of the state Constitution, where they’ve been for 10 years. The reasoning is to restore the legislature’s power to make gaming decisions rather than by voter referendum.

A similar bill, HB 605, to ask voters to take themselves out of the gambling expansion process, is under consideration by the Maryland House of Delegates. Any change to the state constitution ultimately must be approved by voter referendum.

Democratic Sen. Nancy J. King, sponsor of the bill proposing to change the state constitution says it is necessary because Maryland is losing ground to its neighbors, with Maryland residents crossing into Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to place legal bets. She said having a sports betting vote on the same ballot as legislative contests hinders its approval.

Gordon Medenica, director of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming, who touts his group to oversee sports betting if/when approved says residents wanting betting need to be patient a while longer.

“Polls I’ve seen people in Maryland love to see sports betting being done in a regulated and legal manner, and getting it away from the illegal operators,” Medenica told gambling operator  “Assuming something does get passed then in this session, it’ll go to a referendum in November, so it’ll probably be 2021 before we actually can offer sports betting to the people of Maryland.”

James Allen  /  March 2nd 2020

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