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.