The Associated Press reports two facts about Indiana's 20-year-old casino industry that when considered together could result in a decline in the moral atmosphere of the state:
– Our 13 casinos over the years have contributed $10 billion in taxes, money that has become the state's third-largest revenue source behind sales taxes and income taxes.
– The industry is facing declining revenues from the recession and increasing competition from Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan and Illinois. People are spending fewer gambling dollars, and there are more places to spend them.
It is easy to see how distressed lawmakers will become. Gambling tax revenue supports such basic state services such as public schooling and corrections. There will be enormous pressure to find ways to encourage casino development, such as giving substantial tax credits for investing in their properties.
We have just two words for legislators: Please don't.
Getting revenue from gambling is a disreputable thing for the state to do. It's one thing to profit from vices people already have, as with tobacco and liquor taxes. It's quite another to encourage an industry that works hard to seduce people into a vice that sells fools' dreams. Of course, the state also commits the far worse sin of promoting its own filthy lottery, so expecting a little shame from that quarter is a probably waste of time.
It's bad enough that tax revenues are third on the state's income list. No one should want the percentage to go even higher.
Those revenues accounted for $660 million last year. State budget forecasts say only $617 million will come in this year and $567 million next year. That trend is in the right direction, and the decline is gradual enough that state officials can make needed adjustments without undue haste or panic. Finding other sources of revenue would be one option. Continuing to look for spending cuts would be a better one.
Click it or Ticket!
There's a nationwide crackdown on seat-belt nonuse that started Sunday and will go through June 10. Police will be out in force in the “Click It or Ticket!” enforcement effort.
We're tempted to ask, “Don't they have anything better to do?” Conservatives are fond of criticizing things such seat-belt and motorcycle helmet requirements as nanny statism. When there are big campaigns to compel usage, the “protecting us from ourselves” aspect of the laws becomes even more obvious.
On the other hand, if police are out there looking for seat-belt scofflaws, they'll be able to spot other things, too, like reckless and drunken driving.