Indiana wasn’t wrong in finding a new revenue stream and jobs from casinos, riverboats and horse tracks. What’s wrong, however, was betting that the influx of gambling tax dollars would rescue a foundering state economy.
Yet that revenue lifeboat has seemingly been the state’s only creative response in finding new tax revenues — some $800 million a year from casinos alone.
Next month, Ohio’s first casino is to open in Cleveland. Three more are on the horizon. That means that Buckeyes who come to gamble in the Hoosier state may keep their gambling dollars at home.
The Casino Association of Indiana predicts a $200 million to $300 million annual loss in gross gambling revenues. State budget analysts expect a $100 million annual loss in gambling tax revenues.
Already, admissions to the state’s casinos have dropped to their lowest level since 1997. As Ohio comes online, Indiana can expect more drops in attendance.
Some 19 years ago, Indiana became the sixth state in the nation to legalize riverboat gambling. The lottery, casinos, racinos and even punch boards in taverns are in the same lifeboat.
Now 22 states have gambled on those revenues as a guaranteed income stream. The country may soon be saturated with casinos serving as last-ditch rescue efforts for struggling state economies.
The outcome is something every gambler’s family knows. When someone gets addicted to the game, it also hurts family, friends and co-workers. Indiana may well be addicted to gambling revenues.
In less than 20 years, rosy predictions have fallen to gloomy forecasts. Hoosiers will be asked to replace those dwindling dollars in order to save state and community services. The forecasts are in; it’s time for elected officials to find new revenue streams without breaking Hoosiers’ backs.
It’s lucky perhaps that Indiana learned that its addiction to gaming is harmful. We’re that much ahead of other states, like Ohio, whose addictions are just starting.
States are wrong to think gambling revenues will be their economic savior.