In a perfect world, with a thriving economy, with jobs plentiful, with unemployment a temporary setback rather than a way of life, would anyone embrace gambling as an economic lifeline?

Probably not.

As we point out in the editorial below outlining our opposition to a casino in Lewiston, the benefits of gambling can be overstated — and, in some cases, whatever advantages might accrue to a locality from the introduction of gambling are outweighed by the way casinos can alter the character of a community.

But the history of gambling expansion in this country also shows that some forms of gaming can boost the economies of states, cities and even rural areas if operated and marketed effectively.

With that in mind, we recommend a yes vote on Question 2, the Nov. 8 statewide ballot initiative authorizing development of racinos in Biddeford and Washington County.

Unfortunately, opponents of the racinos have aimed their fire at gambling’s failures while ignoring its success stories. Some opponents have even attacked harness racing, a sport and business that has a long, proud history in Maine and elsewhere. The opponents’ arguments are not only narrow-minded, unfair and frequently misleading, but completely miss the point of the proposals.

Opponents, in fact, badgered the state to devise the most confusing possible wording of the ballot question so that it refers to “a slot machine facility at a harness racing track in Biddeford or another community within 25 miles of Scarborough Downs … and at a harness racing track in Washington County …”

What we’re really voting on here,of course, is a go-ahead for development of a harness racing/slot machine “racino” in Biddeford and another on tribal lands in Calais.

Supporters of the Calais racino will need to line up a developer, but Ocean Properties and Scarborough Downs are ready to plunge ahead with a $120 million Biddeford racino/resort project that will create hundreds of jobs and provide a major shot in the arm to the local economy, pending local approval.

Since Biddeford residents already have voiced their support for the racino in a previous election, statewide passage of Question 2 looks to be the only major hurdle yet to clear.

Too often overlooked amid the fervid arguments about the economic impact of gambling is the importance of harness racing as a contributor to Maine’s economy and as a valued element of the state’s cultural and social structure.

The industry has struggled in recent years, as have many other recreational businesses in a troubled economy, but it is worth preserving — as an institution, as a direct provider of jobs, and as an economic hub for related businesses.

At some point, the state will find it necessary to inhibit the growth of gambling — a casino in Lewiston, for example, would almost certainly be one too many — but the proposals embodied in Question 2 promise benefits that surpass any conceivable disadvantages.

We urge voters to say yes )to Question 2.

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