INDIANA'S GROWING ADDICTION TO--AND RELIANCE ON--GAMING
The photo and story in this morning's Indianapolis Star regarding over 2,000 people lining up for jobs at yet another casino in Indiana--this time in Orange County--is disheartening to me. My heart goes out to these folks who want and need employment. My heart also goes out to all whose lives have been destroyed by gambling and the milieu of gaming. The moral and social challenges far outweigh the economic opportunities, it seems to me.
ONSLAUGHT OF GAMING. Have you noticed the steadily escalating influence of the gaming industry in Indiana over the past ten years? I have. First the lottery. We were told "it's good because it funds education." "Fun is good," the Indiana Lottery folks told us, cackling. Then floating casinos were approved by state legislators. It helped keep Indiana dollars in Indiana, we were told. Then legislators approved trackside gambling at a growing number of horse-racing tracks. I sat in committee meetings while Senator Larry Borst lauded the glories of horse-race betting. Then came a proposal to fund the new Colts stadium with slot machines in downtown Indy. It was dead on arrival. Now an economically troubled county far from any navigable river is pinning hopes for its wealth and happiness on a casino. What next?
NOT JUST A GAME. "Gaming" is the neutered word that seems to take any inference of "wrong" or hint of "bad" out of gambling. Regardless of the spin, gambling is not just a game. "Gaming" is not morally neutral, as far as I am concerned. It's addictive and poverty-preying downsides are significant and destructive. The baggage it brings with it is morally decadent and socially damaging. Gambling fosters poor judgment, unhealthy thinking, unscrupulous behavior, and an addiction that most deny actually exists. Further, reliance on "gaming" as a means of economic stability and funding for essential educational and social services is incredibly irresponsible.
WHAT WE HAVE TO LOSE. Indiana can do better than to slide further into gambling's clutches. We can do better than count on casinos for money to fund public schools. Maybe it's time to take a second look at what we've gotten ourselves into. Who's studying the downside of Indiana "gaming?" Let the press do its responsible work. Quit buying the spin. Let's find out what's happening to the lives of Hoosiers who are caught in gambling addiction. Let's find out what's happening "on the side" at Indiana casinos. Let's learn about the hidden costs behind the lauded benefits.