Spending in the mammoth media battle over a proposed expansion of gambling in Maryland is approaching $70 million and is poised to exceed the totals for the last three gubernatorial contests -- combined -- before Election Day.
New figures reported by the ballot committees backed by rival casino companies MGM Resorts International and Penn National Gaming show the two sides have spent $34 million and $35 million respectively.
The last three races for governor combined -- 2002, 2006 and 2010 -- cost about $76 million. The peak came in 2006, when the contest between then-Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and challenger Martin O'Malley cost $35 million. Their 2010 rematch cost about $22 million, while the 2002 contest between Ehrlich and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend came in about $19 million.
If spending on Question 7 continues at its current pace, that three-election figure could be shattered by this weekend. The referendum will decide whether to allow a new casino in Prince George's County and open the state to table games such as blackjack and craps.
MGM backs Question 7 on the Nov. 6 ballot because it wants the go-ahead to build a casino at National Harbor. Penn National wants to block it for reasons including the threat such a development poses to its casino in Charles Town, W. Va.
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