Legislation to enable an Oxford County resort casino is likely ill-fated. Voters killed the idea last November and Gov. John Baldacci is bound to veto it. That said, gambling and how to regulate gambling should not be a dead issue.
During Monday’s public hearing on the bill, the state’s top gambling regulator, Robert Welch, testified the cost of regulating new gaming sites in Maine is prohibitive. For the casino in Oxford County, he said, nine new regulatory positions would have to be created, with an initial cost of perhaps $1 million and an annual cost of $700,000 to the state.
There is no doubt new gambling houses would require additional regulators. There should also be no doubt the cost of this regulation should come from gambling proceeds. If the house wins, the house should pay, yet only state government — by anticipating future gambling proposals — can dictate this outcome.
Maine must outline rules for how gambling would expand. Make the terms harsh but fair. The last Oxford casino referendum showed the danger of letting the industry — or one young lawyer — set the terms and conditions for how casino gambling operates here.
Making gambling houses pay for their oversight should be part of it.
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