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.