Gambling on Gambling Was Always a Bad Bet

The Indianapolis Business Journal recently reported that the state’s gaming revenues are declining.

The money the state collects from casino taxes has dropped from a peak of nearly $876 million in 2009 to about $752 million in fiscal 2013, according to figures from the Indiana Gaming Commission. Indiana’s three casinos near Cincinnati have seen big declines since a downtown casino opened in the Ohio city last year.

In recent years, Indiana’s casino industry has pleaded with state legislators for economic protection from the increasing state competition.

Let’s recap: the Indiana legislature (like those of many other states) lacked the cojones to raise taxes. In the mid-1990s, lawmakers turned to gaming to fill the state’s coffers. Many of us pointed to the irony involved: the same moralists who had passed strict limits on private gambling (it’s sin, you know…) somehow saw nothing wrong when government was promoting that sin.

At the time, I said this was upside down: the government has no business telling people they can’t have a poker night at their club, and it likewise has absolutely no business making money off gambling venues that are effectively a tax on poor people.

The New York Times recently editorialized about a proposal for additional casinos in that state. Their reasons are equally valid here: a wealth of studies show that gambling is a regressive tax that takes its highest toll on those who can least afford it; the experience of states and municipalities that have depended on gambling have not been positive (construction jobs aren’t permanent, and–as we are now seeing in Indiana–competition from other states quickly erodes revenues).

Indiana Senate President David Long says he supports assigning the issue to a summer study committee.

I have no problem with study. But I would have a huge problem with any proposal to “bail out” Indiana’s casinos–and I think most Hoosier taxpayers would agree with me.


  1. A bailout of the gambling industry would be consistent with so many other initiatives by our legislators – bigger stadiums for football, more taxpayer “participation” in maintaining sports venues, tax abatement for “job creators” (even those that never create any jobs), taxpayer funding for training company employees, tax money for parochial schools in the form of vouchers, lower tax rates for the wealthiest, lower tax rates for corporations, etc. Don’t be shocked by the “findings” of a tax payer funded study of the gambling industry.

  2. Gambling casinos are totally in synch with the state’s philosophy, as stated in the NYT, “a regressive tax that takes its highest toll on those who can least afford it”. It’s just another way to make the lower income folks suffer, added on to the other varieties of inhumanity. Then they told us that the income will be used for good things like schools, which means that the residents can shove the burden for supplanting our responsibility for youth onto the backs of lower income people. But the wealthier folks pay lower taxes. This is such hypocrisy.

    What do you bet that the legislature and our “Christian” governor will find a way to “help” the casinos?

  3. daleb comments captures our Legislative and Executive priorities. It is hard to believe how far Crony-Capitalism has expanded in Indiana at the State and Local Levels. These points made by daleb are now standard operation procedure (SOP) here in Indiana.

    I recall a few years ago the Horse Racing Industry also received a subsidy. It may simply be with Wages for the Poor and Middle Class stagnate the amount of disposable income for gambling is decreasing.

    I was never quite sure why gambling on a boat was necessary, unless it was determined to be by some that it was less “Sinful” on the water. You have to wonder how many of Legislators were on the “in” when these Casinos were created.

  4. I’ve been poor all of my life and never could understand this gambling thing. I didn’t have a spare nickel in my life to gamble. I don’t understand why everyone is surprised that gambling is down. Have you seen the job market lately?
    Who has the time, much less the money to gamble it away? Only those that have more time than they know what to do with and those who have lives so boring and desperate that gambling was something to get their blood pressure up would go to these places. And it used to be, free booze at those gambling joints too. I’ve been to those casinos and the food is awful, the drinks are watered down and the saddest faces you’ve ever seen, inside them. Yeah, that market is not going to draw big crowds.
    Oh wait, you weren’t talking about the stock market were you? Because those computers are fast and making some huge bucks. Robots playing with other people’s money. Now that’s a casino! Let’s gamble with our future retirement money because really, that’s where they say we should invest! But wait, has everyone forgotten 2008?

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