The county executives of Washington's Maryland suburbs urged voters Thursday to ignore the ads coming from the opponents of the November ballot question that would legalize table games and allow the state's sixth casino to be built in Prince George's County.
"When I see those despicable ads on the television today urging Maryland to reject this question, urging Maryland to not vote in support of this, people need to understand that the people behind those ads stand to benefit if we reject this, and then Maryland will suffer as a result of it," said Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett. "Those ads are paid for by those who are trying to deny us the opportunity to expand jobs, to increase our tax base and to ensure that we can do more for education. ... This is about trying to stop us and to ensure that the pockets of those in West Virginia are enhanced as a result of that."
Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker specifically attacked the ads coming from the group Get the Facts - Vote No On 7 -- funded primarily by Penn National Gaming, which owns casinos in Charles Town, W.Va., and Perryville -- that say a loophole would allow the state to avoid increasing education spending. The group knows these claims are "patently false," he said.
"They know that the commitment from the governor and the commitment from the legislative body -- and the commitment from us local leaders -- is that we're going to target the majority of the money for education, for economic development," he said. "They know that's false advertisement, and we're here to straighten that out."
A representative of the Get the Facts committee could not be reached for comment.
But as The Washington Examiner reported two weeks ago, the anti-gambling ads are more truthful than Baker says.
Though state budget analysts predict gambling profits will add $174.5 million to the Education Trust Fund by fiscal 2017, they also expect the state to reduce the amount of money going to education from the general fund.
In recent weeks, Maryland voters have been inundated by ads on both sides of the ballot fight. Penn National and MGM Resorts International, which would manage a casino built at National Harbor, have spent $18 million on advertising so far. Between late August and Sept. 17, more than 6,200 television ads on the issue had aired, Bloomberg News reported.
Maryland residents leave the state to play table games in West Virginia, costing the state potential revenue, said Howard County Executive Ken Ulman.
"Make no mistake: This is about Maryland versus West Virginia," Baker said. "Those resources and those dollars need to stay right here."
Staff Writer Ben Giles contributed reporting.