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MARCUS: Hoosiers hear gospel of gambling

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Morton Marcus

Many Hoosier ministers are opposed to gambling, but Rev. Derek Dyce is an exception. Although I suspect the reverend got his ordination from an advertisement on a pack of matches, he preaches regularly at the Church of Lucky Lords and Ladies. These were his words during this week’s sermon:

“The Indiana General Assembly continues to discriminate against our faith; they will not allow two failed casinos in Gary to relocate in a prominent pasture where I-65 meets I-80/94. We are denied convenient, legal places to practice our rites for the holy, voluntary redistribution of money.

“Hoosiers are blessed with two avenues for advancing the gospel of luck: the lottery and the casinos. Last year alone, Indiana’s faithful—and visiting co-religionists—donated more than $732 million to the Hoosier Lottery, of which 62 percent, $453 million, was redistributed to those blessed with luck.

“Another 7 percent, $50 million, went to nearly 4,000 good business folks, retailers who sell lottery tickets. We garnered $179 million (25 percent) for good causes: the Build Indiana Fund and retirement funds for teachers’, police officers’ and firefighters’ pensions. The balance was another $50 million for salaries, wages, advertising, and other contributions to the Indiana economy.

“However, this is the small stuff. These few hundred million hardly compare to the nearly $30 billion bet in 13 Indiana casinos. Now, fellow taxpayers, if I understand these numbers, 91 percent of these dollars were returned as winnings to the devout men and women who frequent these palaces of hope. An additional $876 million (3 percent) went to our state and local governments for our benefit.

“Some 93 percent of those winnings came from electronic gambling devices—known to you and me as ‘slots’—the people’s prayer machines. Table games, where, in a few select cases, judgment may play a part, accounted for the remaining 7 percent. Slots paid out 93 percent in winnings on our bets, while table games paid out 81 percent of the money we put down. Doesn’t that show how it is better to be lucky than to have some judgment?

“All this is goodness, with the greatest rewards going to the lucky, those blessed by the Deity, confirmed by their luck in gracious recognition by Providence. Luck, my friends, not hard work or achievement. Luck, dearly beloved, not service to humanity. Luck, not knowledge, skill or any form of self-improvement. Luck, indiscriminate luck, random good fortune, the ultimate abnegation of constricting, outdated social values.

“Why then does our state Legislature keep gambling, this divine source of income redistribution, from us? Why must we travel to Shelbyville, Evansville, Gary or Lawrenceburg to make our offerings? Casinos, like the lottery, should be available in every county.

“Have you seen the modern casino? These are magnificent houses of worship where luck is glorified. They sparkle with light and laughter. They are clean and friendly castles. Food and drink are abundant. The sounds are wondrous anticipations of celestial auditory delights.

“All this is endangered by the short-sightedness of the Legislature and competition from neighboring states.

“Would it not be just and proper for us to have casinos in Sullivan, Seymour and South Bend? Why should the lucky in Clark and Cass counties be prohibited from enjoying neighborhood casinos? Isn’t it time to stomp out the prejudice against heaven-granted luck and allow each to find his or her own path to the glory of wealth?

“And the people all say, ‘Roll-em’.”

It was a powerful message, delivered by Rev. Dyce in fewer than 666 words.•

__________

Marcus taught economics for more than 30 years at Indiana University and is the former director of IU’s Business Research Center. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at mmarcus@ibj.com.

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