All those folks at the Statehouse and around the state handwringing about how franchising the state lottery to a private company will lead to the expansion of gambling should take a walk down the streets of Indianapolis. Gambling is already available in all forms, legal and otherwise, and isn't about to disappear.
Just blocks away from the Statehouse at the corner of Washington and Illinois, sits an off-track betting shack run by the parent company of the Hoosier Park and the legendary Churchill Downs horserace tracks. You can bet on the ponies during lunchtime while enjoying a meal. Across from the City-County building, you can stop by one of two convenience shops and pick up a lottery ticket just before heading to a council hearing or a meeting with the mayor. And for those who stick to churchly affairs, there's the weekly bingo games that subsidize the spiritual work of the faithful.
Further out of Downtown, in some of the city's poorest Black neighborhoods, you can put down some bets at the local numbers racket or peashake house, where the odds of winning are usually better than a $1 bet with the Hoosier Lottery and perhaps, even meet up with a state or local official. Sure, they are illegal, but only because the state makes a weird distinction between legal forms of gambling and those it finds distasteful or difficult to tax. Then there is sports betting, which is discussed rather openly in just about every bar and office in town.
One can argue that expanding gambling will breed compulsive behavior. But those folks are going to bet no matter whether gaming is legal or not. If anything, by making all forms of gambling legal, state officials can actually place a tax on those operations to help fund programs to stem compulsive gambling and keep the operations free of organized crime by regulating who can actually own a casino. And if the lottery is handed off to a private operation -- with provision for a second lottery operation to reduce the monopoly aspects of the franchising -- then the state is no longer in the business of self-enrichment -- along with picking and choosing winners and losers -- in gaming.
So legalize the peashakes. Place some slots Downtown. The state has long ago allowed gaming to become a feature of the economy and society of this state. Might as well place another bet.
Do you think Biddle's views explain why the Star has reported nothing on last weekend's bust at a west side pea shake establishment where Sen. Glenn Howard (D-Indianapolis) reportedly showed up to protest the raid because police were finally acting on neighborhood complaints? I suspect if RiShawn actually lived near one of these pea shack houses instead of the comfortable northeast-side suburb where he currently resides he would feel differently about the matter. Notice how much time he's devoted at Expresso to blogging against the blight caused by the homeless people whom he encounters daily near his place of work?