There is plenty of reason to wish that lawmakers had been able to predict the future at the turn of the century and had acted forthrightly to create a comprehensive regulatory plan for the casino gambling industry.

Such a plan would have established a consistent system of allocating sites and economic criteria for building casinos, along with sufficient regulations to ensure their honest operation and a fair distribution of a portion of their revenues to state and local coffers.

If legislators determined that the harness racing industry was of such value to the state that it deserved special subsidies, those could have been allocated by law from either casino receipts or other revenues.

Blessed with 20-20 hindsight, we today could tell them that’s what they should have done. Then Maine would have been prepared for an onslaught of proposals to create gambling facilities here, there and everywhere without regard to anything other than the hopes and plans of a variety of potential sponsors.

Instead, those people and groups each created their own site selection criteria and promised to distribute revenues according to their own priorities, scattering promised largesse around to garner the most support, but without regard to demonstrated need or established public policy.

We could have said that the promise of profits from the population’s propensity to wager its current assets against the hope of future gain would come to be a form of minting money for casino operators.

We could have told our fellow Mainers that when economic times got bad, the lure of jobs in the casino industry would eventually overwhelm many Mainers’ native skepticism that it was possible to get something for nothing — ground already plowed by the state lottery and by casino operations in other states that attracted Mainers by the busloads.

But it’s a decade too late for that. Maine now has a casino in Bangor, another one being built in Oxford, and a fairly good chance that voters Nov. 8 will approve two or three more, in southern Maine, Washington County and Lewiston. What can we do now?

We can do this: When lawmakers return to Augusta in January, they can revisit the entire topic of casino regulation and, taking advantage of the experience of other states and their established laws and rules, rewrite Maine’s law to bring order and regularity to what is now chaos.

Or, we can continue to ignore the need and let this industry grow as it wishes — and live with the consequences, whether they are good or bad.

We can’t go back and start off on the right foot. But we don’t have to keep putting the wrong one forward, either.