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Editorial: Putting gambling on the ballot

Now it’s going to be up to Massachusetts voters to roll the dice when it comes to destination casinos in the state.

If you’re a fan of having the voting public be the vehicle for decisions in Massachusetts, then you have to be cheering a Supreme Judicial Court decision that puts an effort to repeal the law allowing expanded gaming in the state on a referendum ballot.

At the same time, it’s an opportunity for those who want to see destination casinos and slot parlors here to make their voices heard.

We can only imagine the campaigns that are about to get underway in trying to sway public opinion for the November vote — and the money that will be spent on them.

Right now, if public opinion polling carries a lot of weight, the anti-casino interests have their work cut out for them. According to a new Boston Globe poll, 52 percent of those responding say they support the casino law crafted by the Legislature while 41 percent say they would repeal it. As we know, however, these numbers can shift, especially as Massachusetts heads toward election day.

What Massachusetts voters are unlikely to see is any significant change in the arguments on either side.

Those touting the three casinos and slot parlor plan will continue to say that they are an economic engine that the state desperately needs. The amounts of money that the various gambling interests have already invested run well into the millions and that’s just the beginning. It’ll mean construction jobs, and then employment opportunities once the gaming enterprises are up and running.

Meanwhile, those arguing against expanded gambling will counter that it’s all fool’s gold. They will argue that the economic impact is not as widespread as proponents claim, especially for communities that serve as a host, and in return, there will be an increase in crime, addiction and other social ills. They’ll also contend that such casinos are not only the wrong kind of economic engine but not a very good one.

Frankly, we agree that there are better economic engines that Massachusetts, its citizens and government, should be supporting. From research and development in the biotech or green energy field, there are opportunities for Massachusetts to grab that have little to do with the downsides associated with casinos.

Come November, though, we’ll see which side is getting people to listen to what we expect will be a loud campaign.

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