Jim Shella: Indiana should allow casino gambling in Indianapolis

Jim ShellaWhat’s a parlay?

I ask because that term suddenly is part of the parlance on sports talk radio and in television commercials that are impossible to escape. I hear it from JB Smoove and Dan Dakich. It seems everybody in Indiana is supposed to know the answer to that question. I didn’t.

So, I decided, for the sake of this column, to find out. A parlay, my research found, is a wager where the original amount and its winnings are used in a subsequent bet. Multiple bets may be combined in subsequent bets. The idea is to turn small wagers into potentially large payouts. Oh, and to encourage more small bets and increase profits for people who collect the cash.

All the talk about parlays is the result of the legalization of sports betting in Indiana. It’s also why we hear from sportscasters if a winning team covered the spread or not, (that’s the predicted margin of victory) or if the total score was over or under the predicted total.

Yes, you can now legally place a bet on your phone. No need to go to a casino, a horse track or an off-track-betting facility. Just go to the app on your iPhone and take a risk.

The progression of legalized gambling in this state has taken a head-first dive down the slippery slope opponents warned about when a state lottery was first debated in the General Assembly in the late ’80s.

It went like this: There came the lottery, then riverboat gambling and legalized betting on horse races. The riverboats were a way to sanitize unsavory activity. Boats were required to sail in Lake Michigan or the Ohio River. Over time, casino owners won the ability to keep the boats docked, allowing gamblers to stay longer and spend more. Then, approval was granted to build on-shore casinos. Eventually, casinos were permitted at the horse tracks in Anderson and Shelbyville. Now, one is coming to Terre Haute.

But attempts to bring casino gambling to Indianapolis continue to be rejected. It’s not the image we want to portray in our capital city. That is the prevailing argument.

With sports betting, there is gambling on every corner and in many households, and there is even a sportsbook inside Lucas Oil Stadium.

I am a longtime Colts season-ticket holder. For the first time, I was offered a discount on my tickets for 2022 if I started a membership with a sports-betting enterprise.

But it’s not just Indiana. Sports gambling is a national phenomenon fueled by support from professional sports leagues, including the NHL, NBA and NFL.

I remember when NFL stars Paul Hornung and Alex Karas were suspended for gambling. I read about the Black Sox scandal, which tarnished baseball when players threw a World Series to benefit gamblers. Sports and gambling did not mix in the era when I grew up—not out in the open.

Now you can’t get away from it.

And that’s why I believe it’s time for a casino in Indianapolis. In fact, there is no logical argument against one anymore, unless you own a casino in Shelbyville and fear the competition.

Why should a guy like me, who plays an occasional slot machine, have to take a road trip to do so? Better yet, why not gather up the tax money from wagers by visitors to the downtown conventions and huge sporting events we stage regularly?

It would be a way to parlay that investment.•


Shella hosted WFYI’s “Indiana Week in Review” for 25 years and covered Indiana politics for WISH-TV for more than three decades. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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2 thoughts on “Jim Shella: Indiana should allow casino gambling in Indianapolis

  1. On first reading of this piece I was completely repulsed by the idea of allowing a casino in Indianapolis, but after thinking about it for more than a minute I decided that maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea. I mean Jim has hit on the right notion here. We have come a long way down the slippery slope so why not give in and face the facts: people like to gamble and they will gamble whether the State approves of it or not.

    So, there is a sportsbook in Lucas Oil Stadium and people are already gambling? Well, there is prostitution not more than a few blocks away. Why not institutionalize that, too? I’m serious. Think of the potential benefits: the State gains tax revenue previously lost to the underground economy; sex workers are provided a safer working environment; and medical care could be provided should “safe sex” measures fail.

    Let’s be bold in following this line of analysis. What about legalizing drug use? The cartels are cleaning up by providing products that are in high demand while the State is passing up needed revenue. We could cut the cartels off at the knees while improving our balance sheet, not to mention the savings from reducing costs of policing, decreasing funding for overcrowded jails, and lessening the burden on overcrowded court dockets. Further, let us recognize legalization of marijuana is just a short slide down the slope. Legalize all drugs. People are going to use them anyway.

    Of course the downside to legalization of these so-called vices is that the thrill of engaging in illicit behavior would be reduced. But not to worry there are plenty of religious folks available to heap abuse on anyone who would touch themselves (see the Onan myth) let alone hire a sex worker or use drugs. Stigma would still attach, and those so inclined could feel appropriately guilty or enjoy the rush of indulging in the forbidden.

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