State needs an exit strategy from gambling
Monday, February 18, 2013 10:00 AM
Several years back, Indiana decided to aggressively grow gambling venues in the state.
Beautiful new buildings sprung up in what previously had been quiet towns. The cliché was true ... Build it and they will come.
For a while...
Now, casinos are cropping up in neighboring states, and Indiana's legislators are feeling the heat to offer relief to Hoosier casinos that expect a drop in revenue.
A bill designed to help Hoosier casinos compete with gaming institutions planned for construction in Ohio, Illinois and Michigan cleared a state legislative committee last week.
The Senate Appropriations Committee voted to move the measure forward.
The statute would lower taxes on casinos, permit riverboat casinos to move their operations inland, and allow live table games at two Indianapolis-area horse tracks.
The plan also calls for ending millions of dollars in annual payments to communities in which casinos are located - such as Switzerland County.
Panel chairman Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) reasoned local units should share in the responsibility of helping the gaming centers thrive.
The bill would reverse a policy that guaranteed casino communities never receive less than the amounts they collected in 2002. Because of the economic downturn, the state has been forced to share gaming taxes to make good on the guarantees.
The trouble is, those communities have come to rely on the gambling windfall. And neighboring counties - Jefferson County included - also stand to lose money.
Switzerland County officials believe the measure, if passed, could cost their county $2 million. Jefferson County could lose about $150,000 since counties neighboring casino counties receive a share of the pot.
This bill reconfirms our concern that lawmakers spend too much of their time tinkering with the state's gaming laws.
Indiana already is too dependent on gaming for revenue, and the gaming industry is anything but stable.
Rather than proceeding further down this path, our leaders should be designing an exit strategy from what has been a bad and irresponsible idea from the beginning.
Gambling on gaming revenue to pay our bills is a long-term, reckless design for failure.