November 15, 2018
Politics & Opinion
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“Slots For Tots” Vs. The Commitment To Education Act

Senator Ed Reilly
Senator Ed Reilly's picture
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March 6, 2018

“Slots for Tots” was a cute slogan for a referendum item on the 2008 General Election ballot. That item would allow video lottery terminals in newly built Maryland casinos, with proceeds from the slots to benefit Maryland public schools.

Here’s a little refresher on how this referendum item came into existence. Back in 2008, the Maryland General Assembly passed a bill to have a referendum (Question 2, the constitutional amendment allowing the video lottery terminals or VLT’s) item put on the November General Election ballot to allow the VLT in newly established casinos in Maryland. Money generated from these VLT machines would be taxed, and a portion of that taxed money would be deposited into the Maryland Education Trust Fund to benefit Maryland public schools. Fifty-eight percent of Marylanders voted in favor of this referendum. The voters were lead to believe that the money generated by slots would go strictly into the Maryland Education Trust Fund and used only for educational needs.

In 2012, the law was amended by the General Assembly to add table games in the six casinos across the state. These casinos are as follows: Hollywood Casino Perryville in Cecil County, Horseshoe Casino Baltimore in Baltimore City, Ocean Downs Casino in Worcester County, Maryland Live! Casino in Anne Arundel County, Rocky Gap Casino Resort in Allegany County, and MGM National Harbor in Prince George’s County. As the casinos grew, so did the income into the Maryland Educational Trust Fund.

The way the 2008 law was written, the Maryland Education Trust Fund was not created as a “lockbox” fund. As casino revenues increased, the money allocated to the Maryland Education Trust Fund, the state has been able to divert state revenues elsewhere. That revenue was redirected to pay salaries, fund roadwork, and support other government programs and services. The casino money essentially allows general fund money that would have gone into the Education Fund to be spent in other ways. This money will fluctuate from one year to the next. Budgeting should be the same with a leveling mechanism in place so the money flows on a constant basis. School revenues need consistency. The money should have supplemented the Maryland Education Trust Fund, not supplant current education funds.

Two pieces of legislation related to this issue are working their way through the legislature this session. Senate Bill 1122 would make a constitutional amendment to keep the casino gambling revenue in a “lockbox” for Maryland public schools. If this constitutional amendment is passed, it will then go on the November ballot for voters to decide on whether or not to create a lockbox for the Maryland Education Trust Fund. Once again, voters would have to vote on this issue to correct a previous referendum they voted on. Governor Larry Hogan has proposed his own education bill titled the Commitment to Education Act of 2018, which would create a lockbox without placing the item on the ballot as a referendum item. He vows that his plan would pump billions into classrooms and school construction over the next 10 years. Under his proposal, the first 20 percent of casino revenues would go toward school construction and an additional $100 million would go to K-12 operational spending. He wants to correct the problem that was created by the Democratic majority legislature in 2008 and have the casino money solely go for educational requirements.

Through legislation, we can fix the faulty bill that was passed in 2008. Education is the only spending priority required by the Maryland Constitution. I will support Governor Hogan’s legislation. I will continue to work hard to make sure that the casino tax revenue will fully go to fund the Maryland Education Trust Fund, as the voters originally intended it should. As always, I am available for you to contact me at 410-841-3568 or by email at

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