Attorney general rules lottery games can be used to build football stadium

November 30, 1995|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,SUN STAFF

The Maryland attorney general has decided that Keno and other state lottery games can be tapped to finance a new Baltimore football stadium, not just the scratch-off games that helped build Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The opinion issued yesterday by Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. ensures that enough lottery money will be available to finance the $200 million stadium planned for the Cleveland Browns.

But the decision could give ammunition to stadium opponents who have complained that lottery revenue should be used for state programs they consider more vital, such as education.

At issue was the 1987 law that authorized the use of specially designated "sports lotteries" to pay off the debt associated with building a stadium. Maryland Stadium Authority officials asked whether such a lottery had to be an instant, scratch-off game.

It does not, according to the attorney general's five-page opinion.

Stadium Authority officials had requested the opinion after state Del. Robert L. Flanagan, R-Howard County, questioned whether instant-win games would be adequate to pay for the new stadium.

Mr. Flanagan, a critic of public stadium financing, raised the issue at a Board of Public Works meeting two weeks ago. He pointed out that officials were counting on up to $35 million a year in lottery revenues to build the stadium, while scratch-off games have generated an average of just $21 million annually in the past.

Mr. Flanagan acknowledged yesterday that the opinion gets the Glendening administration "out of a box," but questioned whether it matches lawmakers' original intent. "[Gov. Parris N.] Glendening ought to have enough guts to justify the stadium admitting the fact these are tax dollars that are being used," he said.

The opinion describes the lottery issue as a "close call." It notes, for instance, that a March 1987 analysis of stadium financing by the legislature's fiscal advisers stated that "sports lotteries would be instant lotteries."

Yesterday's opinion, however, says sports lotteries could be any game marketed as such. "While a sports motif may be easiest to design into instant games, imaginative marketers could surely contrive sports trappings or sports promotions for other types of lotteries," the opinion notes.

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