By Denise Koch

BALTIMORE (WJZ)– When WJZ viewers saw freezing children and broken down city classrooms– suddenly everybody asked “what happened to all the casino money that was supposed to help the schools?”

We all remember them. Emotional, dramatic commercials first in 2008 and then again 2012 appealing to voters to approve gambling in Maryland because it would mean millions in additional money for Maryland’s school children.

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Many of you voted to legalize gambling after being swayed by the casino campaign.

‘Slots for Tots’ it was called, but State Comptroller Peter Franchot, a target of the casinos, was always an opponent.

“The problem is, it was always a hoax and it’s still a hoax perpetrated on the public,” Franchot said.

A hoax because a WJZ investigation reveals (and what most Marylanders did not and do not realize) is, hidden in the language of the law; the gambling money funds but does not add to the State’s education budget.

Benjamin Orr of the Center for Economic Policy says, “the voters thought they were voting for this totally new pot of money for education and they didn’t get it.”

The casinos are making more and more money and, by law, putting more and more money in the Education Trust Fund but that is not moving the dial on education.

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“If we didn’t have a single casino we would be spending the exact same amount of money on education,” Franchot said.

Close to $2 billion has been spent on education since slots were legalized. Meanwhile, children freeze in classrooms, schools close because of broken furnaces and faulty heating systems; districts struggle with inadequate budgets and our newsroom is inundated with e-mails and phone calls from frustrated voters asking “what about the casino money?”

That very question led veteran Delegate Maggie McIntosh to get her staff to take a close look at the law.

“Lo and behold, the language did lead you to believe you were voting for new, additional funding,” Delegate McIntosh said.

That revelation has McIntosh and Senator Joan Carter Conway co-sponsoring a bill to protect the Education Trust Fund money and make sure, in the future, those millions become an additional source of money for our schools, our children.

“Over a period of 4 years we’re are going to increasingly make it 25, 50, 75 and 100 percent supplemental on top of the budget,” Delegate McIntosh said.

Governor Hogan supports efforts to fix what he considers the “flawed legislation” created under the previous administration.

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