Hunter, who recently left MAASH, agrees. "Look at Worcester, where they've pegged downtown on arts and theater," he says. A casino in nearby Palmer — a likely location — could kill that downtown scene and the businesses that depend on it, notes Hunter.

But defining the problem may prove easier than agreeing on a solution.

Falzone's report, a draft of which has been seen by some in the arts community, will recommend ways that a gaming bill could mitigate the effects on the performing-arts community — perhaps by devoting a portion of the revenue stream from gaming directly to nonprofit performing-arts facilities, or by implementing some type of ban on performance venues in casinos.

Still, that won't be good enough for some should gaming get its foot in the door. "Remember the arts lottery," warns Poulos. The lottery was once meant to funnel money to the arts; as other needs arose, that flow was shut off in the early 1990s.

And Hunter believes stopping casinos is the only answer. "I've had many conversations about this, and I don't think there is anything you can do" to protect existing venues, he says.

Members of the Cultural Caucus, including Chang-Díaz and Pignatelli, have not yet cast their lot with that all-or-nothing approach — which would put them on a direct collision course with casino proponents, including Murray. That may be too risky a gamble for such a new group.

To read the "Talking Politics" blog, go to thePhoenix.com/talkingpolitics. David S. Bernstein can be reached at dbernstein@phx.com.

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