Back before Maine had any legalized slot machine facilities, the state could have taken control of process and made some rational choices.

Instead, the issue was left up to the voters, who decided through a series of referendum votes on specific proposals not only whether there should be slot machines and table games, but where they should be and how the revenue should be distributed. Now we have a mess.

Maine has one up-and-running racino, Hollywood Slots in Bangor, one voter-approved casino in Oxford County that is struggling to get off the ground, and plans for three other facilities now before the Legislature.

All three, racinos in Washington and York counties and a casino in Lewiston, will likely go before the voters in November, unless the Legislature and governor have a change of heart and pass them in the legislative session’s final days.

If we were starting with a clean slate, it is unlikely that Bangor and Oxford County would be identified as the best places to maximize revenue from away. It is equally unlikely that the state would choose to build as many as five facilities, or put them as close to each other as Oxford and Lewiston, only 20 miles apart, or Lewiston and Biddeford, separated by an hour’s drive on the Maine Turnpike.

Despite the claims made in the last referendum campaign, these facilities expect to draw much of their business from nearby communities, and so many, so close together would not be likely to survive.

If it’s too late for the best solution, the next best is letting the marketplace sort it out.

If, either through the legislative process or the ballot box, these new facilities are approved, they will have to compete for finite resources and the ones that are most attractive to customers will survive.

If the voters say no, maybe then the state could take the reins and make a choice of whether to maintain monopolies in Bangor and Oxford, or to create a rational licensing process that sets standards for a new facility that would maximize out-of-state revenue and make sure the whole state shares the revenues equally.

Barring that, it will be up to the customers of these facilities to determine which of these proposals is a winner.