Should Maryland Decriminalize Sports Betting? Yes.

In November, Maryland voters will weigh in on whether sports betting should be legal in the state. Question 2 would allow certain licensed facilities to offer patrons a way to legally wager on sports and direct the bulk of the new revenue toward public schools.

The few voices advocating a “no” vote on legalizing sports betting have some valid concerns, like the fact that the referendum doesn’t guarantee how the revenue is used. But other concerns, like assertions that legalizing gambling increases gambling addiction, amount to fear-mongering.

And let’s be real. Opponents of legalized sports betting in Maryland inaccurately frame it as a choice between letting Maryland residents bet on sports or not. But that is not what will be decided by Question 2. We will be choosing whether we want residents to bet on sports legally in Maryland or illegally in other states.

Betting is popular among Marylanders, with nearly 20% gambling on a monthly basis or more. After lottery, casino games and horse racing, the most popular type of betting is sports. Since they can’t legally bet on sports, that means one of two things: They rely on unlicensed bookies or drive across state lines to where it is legal.

As of August 2020, all of Maryland’s neighboring states have legalized sports betting, already available in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia and operations in Virginia set to come online soon.

The good news is that people prefer to gamble legally and, as a recent report from the American Gaming Association indicates, are migrating away from illegal bookies into these newly legal markets. But illegal bookies remain available, on and offline, for those residents unable or unwilling to make the cross-border drive.

Forcing people into the arms of organized crime is not what anyone should want. Illicit bookies do not care about age restrictions or mitigating problem gambling. Their profits also tend to fund other, more dangerous criminal activities, like the trafficking of people, drugs and weapons.

Read the full article at The Washington Times.