With all the bills in Augusta concerned with the expansion of legalized gambling, one stands out as a truly good idea.

Rep. Linda Valentino, D-Saco, has proposed a bill that would create a competitive bidding process for proposed casinos, where developers would compete against each other for the right to do business here. The state could determine which plan would produce the most revenue and maximize income from out of state.

Unfortunately, this good idea comes about five years too late. Maine already has one gambling facility, Hollywood Slots in Bangor, which was approved by a citizen initiative process, and another, Black Bear Entertainment’s Oxford County casino, approved by the voters last year. Additionally, there are two other plans now before the Legislature, one that would open slot machine parlors in conjunction with harness race tracks in Biddeford and Washington County and another that would create a casino in Lewiston.

All three are locally popular. The Legislature can either pass the bills before them or send them out to the electorate that approved the Oxford County facility. We wish that instead of this situation, the state had a blank slate and could get casino developers to compete with each other to come up with the best deal for Maine.

We have been opposed to legalized gambling as an economic development tool, because we think it drains income from other forms of entertainment. But the voters have disagreed twice, and now the question is not whether we should have gambling facilities but how many and where.

The Bangor and Oxford County facilities now share a monopoly, which seems neither fair nor in the state’s best interests. Changing the rules for approving these facilities now, however, would not be fair to those investors and the people who have brought their proposals through the system.

Lawmakers should seriously consider expanding the number of facilities to provide geographical balance and better leverage the potential for out-of-state customers.

If there are too many casinos, the market will tell us and the investors will pay the price. Now that the Legislature has missed its chance to control the process, it should use what influence it still has to make sure that Maine gets the best deal it can.