September 19, 2006

Indiana: Legalize It?

Indiana State Senator Robert Meeks is the latest state leader to voice his support for legalizing video gambling in the state. In the past week, two state newspapers' editorial boards have issued tepid endorsements of the Meeks proposal. The Lafayette Journal and Courier's lukewarm endorsement starts (and ends) with the premise that Hoosiers have already fallen from grace, so a little more gambling can't hurt:
Hoosiers decided the moral questions about gambling in 1988, when they approved a lottery referendum with a 62 percent majority...And we have a hard time seeing the difference between video gambling and gambling in the lottery, bingo, raffle tickets and the office pools for NCAA men's basketball.
This is true, up to a point: gambling has always been with us, and probably always will be. But the sensible position the Journal-Courier staff take-- that gambling already exists illegally, so the state should be regulating it and skimming a bit off the top--is, inevitably, NOT the position that state lawmakers will ultimately take on any expanded gambling. Lawmakers will see it as a cash cow, and will milk it for all it's worth-- basically encouraging Hoosiers to gamble more than they otherwise would.

The editorial board of the Fort Wayne News Sentinel is even less enthusiastic, but comes to the same conclusion:
[T]he state long ago got in more than waist-deep, and legalizing the video games would be barely a drop more in that vast ocean of gambling. The state should consider the option of treating this vice like other vices, such as smoking and drinking. The state doesn't have to promote or encourage them, but it does recognize that they exist and taxes and regulates them accordingly.
Same problem here: tax-averse lawmakers will ultimately see this as the least controversial option for raising revenues, and will absolutely try to "promote or encourage" its citizens to roll the dice if it will help them pay for education.

Of course, this isn't state lawmakers' fault-- they're human, and want to keep their jobs. Inevitably they'll learn to rely on gambling to supplant more controversial (but less unfair) sources such as the income tax and property tax.


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