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Editorial

Casino referendums need voluntary spending limits

With huge profits at stake, Suffolk Downs is flooding East Boston with flyers and Blue Line ads touting the casino it wants permission to build in the neighborhood. The company has spent nearly $1 million on its campaign already, according to city filings, and it’s obvious why: If voters approve the casino and the plan then wins the competition for a state license, it would be a bonanza for the ailing racetrack and its partner, Caesars Entertainment. But the electioneering demonstrates how unfair a vote can be when one side enjoys a vast financial advantage, and highlights the need for tighter campaign-finance restrictions as the state’s local casino votes near.

At the insistence of Governor Patrick, the Massachusetts casino law enacted in 2011 included a stipulation that a casino plan needs approval from the host community’s voters before it can be submitted to the Gaming Commission. Given the possible impact of a casino on traffic, crime, and quality of life, it’s a crucial provision.

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