Some choices are difficult for our legislature to make. This one is a no-brainer.
On one hand we have two counties ¬– Prince George’s and Baltimore City – that are desperately short of the funding they need to give their children even a minimum quality education. Of the 24 counties in the state, including Baltimore City, their public education systems are ranked 23rd and 24th respectively.
These counties need money, but from where? Well, the voters of Maryland approved casinos to generate additional funding for education. See the pie chart below.
As you can see, in Fiscal 2018 alone, casino revenues produced almost half a billion for public education. $496,663,611, to be exact, but it’s still not enough. …Wait a minute! What’s that $71,219,399 for “Horse Racing”? Is that really as important as public education?
Well, no. Funding to prop up the state’s struggling horse racing business is most definitely not more important than funding public education.
“So how did it happen? How did the state’s racetracks get so much money… and our public schools, not as much as they need?”
It’s simple really. A very wealthy man, Frank Stronach, helped Martin O’Malley – Maryland’s previous Governor, get elected. In return, Governor O’Malley engineered legislation that gave Maryland’s horse racing industry 7% of all casino slot machine money ¬– most of which was for jacking up the purses for thoroughbred racing. The higher the purses, the more money the tracks make – especially from out-of-state betting.
“What’s the connection? Between Mr. Stronach and horse racing?”
Good question. Turns out that there are only 2 thoroughbred racetracks in Maryland. And can you guess who owns them both? Bingo. They’re both owned by Frank Stronach through The Jockey Club which is one of his companies. The 2 tracks we’re talking about are Pimlico, which happens to be in Baltimore City, home to the state’s lowest ranking public schools, and Laurel Park in Anne Arundel County where the schools are ranked 13th.
Martin O’Malley is no longer Governor, but Mr. Stronach continues to make serious money from his share of casino revenues.
Oh, and Mr. Stronach is also a world-class breeder, so some of these much higher, state-subsidized purses go to horses he owns. Sweet deal, wouldn’t you say?
Proponents of racing will argue that the state needs to save the horse racing industry which has been suffering from declining consumer interest for many years. But then it’s not the industry that the state is subsidizing so much as it is Mr. Stronach, personally, who is already loaded and could easily subsidize Maryland horse racing out his own pocket.
“But horseracing and breeding have been traditions in Maryland for… I don’t know, forever.”
True, but raising children in Maryland has been a tradition for at least as long.
In any case, our children are more important, don’t you think?
The fix is easy. All the Baltimore City and Prince George’s County state delegations need to do is introduce legislation to redirect the horse racing industry/Stronach subsidy to public education and $71,219,399 – and then more every year as casino revenues continue to grow – will start helping Maryland public school children learn more and be more competitive for college admissions and jobs. And that’s a good thing.
“Easier said than done?”
Not really. I mean that the doing is almost as easy as talking about it. What Delegate or State Senator is going to vote “No,” in favor of continuing to subsidize horse racing and Frank Stronach – whose company is Canadian, by the way – and then go back to his or her constituents and tell them?
“Tell them what?”
That it’s more important to fund a billionaire and “the sport of kings” than to improve the quality of the children’s education.