The Unlimited Flow of Gambling Revenue

I am always stunned when I read about how much money Americans spend on gambling. In Maryland, for example, it is estimated that the annual earnings from the state’s six casinos is over $500 million. That’s just the earnings so what is actually spent on gambling in Maryland is easily in the billions and that’s just one state.

One of the most common ways to get people who don’t like gambling to go along with it is to promise to use the proceeds on good things like education and protecting the environment. That is what happened in Maryland when gambling was first approved there in 2008 and then expanded in 2012. Earnings from gambling would be used to support education.

The problem is, no one ever spelled out specifically how much of the gambling revenue would be used for Maryland schools. That will change if Question 1 is passed by Maryland voters in November. If passed, starting in the year 2020 the percentage of gambling revenue spent on education would increase every year until 100 percent of gambling revenue was used for education by the year 2023. Plus, the gambling revenue will have to be used to fund specific areas of education like early childhood education, teacher training and maintaining school facilities.

Using gambling revenue to support education seems like a win-win scenario. Those who enjoy gambling get to gamble and in the process it generates more revenue for our schools. But I do not buy into this view. I believe there are many hidden societal costs to gambling that are never accounted for and I have not seen any proof that where gambling revenue is used for education it really has improved our schools.

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