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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

The fever

Passing a new budget was the only thing Indiana legislators had to get done, and they failed to do it. At least now they can use the special session their failure brought about to concentrate on the budget and nothing else.

Well, no. Indiana's "powerful gambling interests," The Indianapolis Star tells us, see the special session as a second chance to get those interests attended to. There are the Lake County people who want one of Gary's two casinos reborn as a land-based operation. Our two new racinos want to have table games in addition to their slot machines. And Fort Wayne, of course, wants permission to conduct a voter referendum on whether to have a casino in Allen County so that Mayor Henry, the gambling supporter who won't come right out and say he's a gambling supporter, can stop being so sickeningly coy about the issue.

And just how strong are those gambling interests?

House Speaker B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, said he would prefer that gambling does not crop up during the pressure-filled special session but said he couldn't rule it out.

Gov. Mitch Daniels also said he doesn't like the idea of the legislature contemplating gambling issues next month but that he's open to listening to "anything that can contribute to a pro-taxpayer result."

Bauer, so powerful that he can stop anything dead in its tracks by denying it House entry, would prefer the issue not come up but "can't rule it out"? If it comes up, it's because he decides it should. The governor is open to anything that can bring a "pro-taxpayer result"? How does gambling do that, exactly?

There are arguments for and against having a casino in any given place, and it's hard to be against having those arguments in Fort Wayne. But it would be nice if residents think it's an honest argument -- with future developments or non-developments truly affected by what people think and how they vote in a referendum. If we're just one more chip those "powerful gambling interests" are playing in toward their goal of getting the state to a no-turning-back point on gambling, then a lot of people are just going to add one more layer of cynicism to an already-too-thick shell.

Some think we already have passed the turning point, but others think not. We had some national gambling opponents in town recently, and when they stopped to see us, one said that if Fort Wayne ever gives in, it's all over. Some think that finally ending the pretense that there's some substantive difference between riverboats and landbased casinos will be the tipping point.

I think there was no going back once the state got involved in gambling itself with the lottery and became dependent on those revenues. At least it lost the moral authority to be an anti-gambling force. Notice any anti-gambling talk there is in the state is always about slowing its growth, never about turning back the clock.


Michael B-P
Tue, 05/12/2009 - 12:19pm

"Pro-taxpayer result" is the bureaucratic, scoundrel-concealing euphemism of choice for market fundamentalists making cynical appeals to voters on behalf of any interest that may drop another dime in their coffers. It's their economic equivalent of bumper-sticker "patriotism" except that they know that there's a chance for some real money. Since, as has been pointed out, the state has already forfeited its moral authority on the issue of gambling, why not prostitution?

Tue, 05/12/2009 - 4:57pm

Well I guess with we could not get through this thread without a "Moral Equivalency" argument. Let's keep the subject slimmed down to gambling, "go or no go?"

We can now now legally gamble on the boats, at the horse tracks and at thousand of lottery outlets. If that is not enough, we can gamble using pull tabs, charity gambling houses, bingo halls, Vegas bookies and the internet.

Best that I can determine, Speaker Bauer has an axe to grind. With all the gambling attractions out his way in Michigan City and Gary, he wouldn't want more competition in the northern tier of the state, now would he?

So this is not a moral issue, it is more likely the deliberate restriction of commerce.

tim zank
Tue, 05/12/2009 - 9:18pm

I find the entire gambling "issue" to be an enormous red herring. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY gambles in some way shape or form. There simply is no denying that.

What has made gambling good OR bad (depending upon your persuausion) is government regulation, by trying to regulate "bad" gambling (card games-football games-etc) against legitimate "good" gambling (read:bingo-lotto-etc) according to the whims of a few.

Michael B-P
Wed, 05/13/2009 - 8:25am

Sure, we can follow the financial and political connections and frame the argument that way. But the fact remains that while proponents of alternate (local) legal gambling locations may not want to make it a moral issue, cetainly there are those opposed who do.

As far as the red herring argument goes, one could define "gambling" broadly enough to include commodites speculation or even buying life insurance. While that may be sufficiently inclusive to affirm universal participation, not everyone subscribes to the type of licensed commercial gambling under discussion. Moreover, "the whims of a few" can be blamed for every restriction that narrows personal choice. In this case, while some, like Bauer, may indeed have a business agenda underyling their positions, others do in fact wish to deliberately restrict commerce of a particular nature for other-than-business reasons.

Bob G.
Wed, 05/13/2009 - 9:06am

Like to see an "Indiana" version of 24:

Senator B.P. Bauer gets offed by JACK BAUER...a LOT!
(and Jack keeps the toupee as a souvenir to hang on his belt)

Imagine the ratings coup in this state...!


Thu, 05/14/2009 - 8:49am

What is wrong with extending the stupidity tax? That is what gambling amounts, to, after all.