THE ISSUE:Video gambling

OUR VIEW: Hiring 25 additional excise police and making it possible for establishments with gambling machines to lose their licenses for selling alcohol, tobacco or lottery tickets could be effective enforcement tools.



After Gov. Mitch Daniels started cracking down on illegal gambling machines during his first six months in office, we predicted video gambling would be a hot-button issue in the 2005-06 legislative session.

Boy, were we wrong. Despite stepped-up lobbying efforts to legalize video gambling at bars, restaurants and fraternal clubs, the issue was neither a part of the governor’s agenda, nor that of the Senate and House Republican majority.

Consequently, local law enforcement agencies here and throughout Indiana generally turn a blind eye to video gambling. In this state, your chances of being prosecuted for operating an illegal gambling machine – usually of the “Cherry Masters,” slot-machine variety – are determined by who you are, whom you know and where you live. That’s not the way the law is supposed to work.

Monday, some Senate Republicans said they want to do something about that.

Sen. James Merritt, R-Indianapolis, and Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, want to tack measures against gambling machines onto a charity gaming bill. Their plan includes hiring 25 additional excise police and making it possible for establishments with gambling machines to lose their licenses for selling alcohol, tobacco or lottery tickets.

We hope the senators’ proposal is similar to that of the Marion County Alcoholic Beverage Commission. It will not re-issue an alcoholic beverage permit to any tavern or fraternal lodge that has three violations for gambling. The policy is effective, authorities say.

“For five or six years in Marion County there were none, or very few machines,” Sandy Ray, a Marion County alcoholic beverage commissioner, told us last year. “If other counties would adopt the policy, it would be effective.”

If the state adopted such a policy, and included lottery and tobacco licenses as well, it would be even more effective. If it doesn’t, local law enforcement agencies will continue to selectively prosecute the status quo.

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