MARYLAND

Question 7: Who's paying for all those TV ads about Md. gambling?

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Backers of the ballot referendum that would allow expansion of gambling in Maryland say it will mean jobs and more money for schools.

Their ads are funded by MGM, which hopes to operate a new National Harbor casino.

But opponents, funded by the operators of a West Virginia casino worried about new competition, say it's not true that schools will benefit.

It's no wonder some Marylanders are saying they don't know who to believe.

According to state analysts - who are supposed to be impartial - if Question 7 passes and six approved casinos are up and running in 2017, it is projected they will bring in $190 billion that year. The casino operators can pocket $920 million, counties and horse racing each get $100 million. A minority business fund and gambling regulators shares and then $750 million must go to the education trust fund. That's about $150 million more for schools than without Question 7.

But that doesn't mean per student spending increases. Donald Kettl, Dean of the University of Maryland School of Public Policy has looked carefully at the promise of an education windfall.

"The gambling money that comes in is earmarked for education, so the answer is yes," Kettl says. "But as we all know, money is fungible and the more money that comes in in one pot can replace money that would otherwise have been spent and can go to another pot."

Kettl says neither side is telling the whole truth on school money, but he says the opponents have stretched the facts more.

"There's a kind of indirection in the opposition which in some ways only serves to confuse the nature of the debate," he says.

Voters say that, given the competing claims, Question 7 mostly comes down to the morality of gambling, traffic and crime concerns, and the promise of jobs.

But the number of jobs and the amount of money received will depend on the economy and the success of the casinos themselves. So the ultimate truth remains unknown.

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