SNIDER: Maryland sports betting should go to voters

Rick Snider
January 18, 2019 - 9:50 am



Maryland’s politicians want residents to trust them to legalize sports betting without a voter referendum. After all, they’re elected to know what’s best.

Excuse me – that’s a sucker’s bet.

When Maryland became the first state nationally to create a lottery, supporters said it would lower taxes. Uh, anybody ever see the lower taxes? Now every time state legislators want to enact new wagering that includes casinos, they say it will prevent higher taxes. And, don’t forget everyone’s favorite lie – it’s for the children.

I’m not against sports gambling despite its terrible cost – your fan card. You’ll root for your money, not your team and that’s sad. Still, people should spend money however they want and if it’s sports gambling then fine.

But Maryland voters deserve to decide such a major issue just like approving casinos. That state legislators blew the 2018 election deadline for a referendum doesn’t not give them the right to just decide themselves in 2019 rather than wait for 2020. After all, the governor can call for a special election this year if he wants.

The devil in sports betting is deciding where revenues go. Maryland casinos now pay $50 million in state taxes monthly. That’s $600 million per year. Supposedly, some goes to community impact like paying for Rt. 210 to be widened near MGM National Harbor. Some monies go to the horse racing community and there’s thought that sports betting revenues could help build a new Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore that needs $400 million to renovate.

But politicians love to talk about education because who can deny children all the money we can throw at them. Forget the many other needs in this state. If you want to pass anything controversial, and some people consider any form of gambling controversial, then just put children in the ads because voting against them makes you a monster.

It takes time to negotiate where the sports gaming revenues will go. Put anything in the general budget and it will be spent because that’s what Maryland politicians do. Legalizing sports betting first and working out the rest later with no public oversight is not in the best interests of Maryland citizens. There’s nothing wrong with waiting. Neighborhood or online bookies can take your bets in the meantime.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks