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Maryland comptroller: Casino money for schools was a 'lie'

Maryland Casinos are on pace to have a record year in 2017, generating nearly $2 billion in revenue. Maryland voters approved casinos thinking much of the revenue would go to educating our kids. So, if casinos are going gangbusters, why can’t schools like Baltimore City pay their bills?

(WBFF) -- Maryland Casinos are on pace to have a record year in 2017, generating nearly $2 billion in revenue.

Maryland voters approved casinos thinking much of the revenue would go to educating our kids. So, if casinos are going gangbusters, why can’t schools like Baltimore City pay their bills?

It’s one of the main questions we get from viewers who call our hotline or send us an email. Project Baltimore looked into it and found out all the money is going to educate our kids. But there’s a catch that Annapolis didn’t tell you about.

In 2008, 58% of Maryland voters supported casinos, which were sold as a way to fund education.

But Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot says, “It was a crass, cynical effort to dupe people.” He went on to say, “The governor back then. The legislative leaders. All of them knew this was fundamentally a lie.”

In the six years since the first casino opened, they have pumped $1.8 billion into the state’s Education Trust Fund. What started as $49 million in 2011 is expected to be $546 million this year. But our investigation also found as casino money poured into education, Annapolis cut school funding from other places. In 2009, Maryland spent 21% of its General Fund Budget on education. This coming year, it will be 18%.

“We're bringing in much more money than we brought in, you can’t keep the percentages the same,” says State Delegate Frank Turner, of Howard County, who helped craft the state’s casino law.

Turner does not believe the Maryland voters were lied to, because the money is going into the Education Trust Fund.

He told FOX45, the $6.4 billion that Maryland spent on education this year, is the most the state has ever spent to fund schools. So while other states have cut education funding, Maryland has not. And Turner says the casino money is a big part of that.

“We’d still have to put in the kind of money that we’re putting in now. We’d just have to find some other source,” Turner says.

But Franchot says the voters were misled, “The clear understanding among the public is that it was supposed to be added to the budget. But it wasn’t.”

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