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

Table stakes

So, the state allowed its two race tracks to add 2,000 slot machines each, essentially making them casinos as well as tracks, because the owners said they needed the revenue to keep the tracks and horse racing viable in the state. In return, they were supposed to pay $250 million each over two years and pay a graduated tax on revenue from the slots. But now they're in trouble, so let's change the rules:

A House committee approved a bill Monday night to give temporary tax breaks to three Indiana casinos, including new ones at the state's two pari-mutuel horse tracks.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted 17-7 for a bill to give tax breaks on wagering revenue for Blue Chip Casino on Lake Michigan, and casinos at Hoosier Park in Anderson and Indiana Live at Shelbyville. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

Advocates said the casinos are struggling and need help to stay in business. Critics said many other businesses in the state are facing hard times in the sagging economy, and it was not fair to single out the casinos for special favor.

Amen on the "special favor" charge. Rep. Randy Borror, R-Fort Wayne, said the bill sends a wrong message to other businesses that are in trouble. It also sends a wrong message to all Hoosiers: The rules don't apply equally to all. Just find a friendly legislator and ask for special treatment, and you'll get it.

The representatives are right, of course, that taxes discourage activity, so the way to encourage a certain activity and thus boost the economy is to reduce the tax burden associated with it, so it's a little surprising that it came out of a Democratic-controlled House committee. But once you've accepted that premise, there is a next logical step: Reduce the tax burden on economic activity across the board. But that would be looking at the whole forest instead of just watering a tree or two.

Shouldn't people who promote gambling be at least a little bit embarrassed for making a bad bet, then trying to get the odds changed in their favor after the fact? Where I come from, we play table stakes. If you lose what you brought to the game, you're out of the game and somebody else gets your seat.