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“I just have a gut feeling that when people are chasing dreams, they will spend more money on that illusive butterfly,” he said while enjoying a quiet dinner with his wife at a downtown restaurant. “You cannot become a millionaire overnight. The people who can least afford [to gamble] may very well be frequent customers.”

Some state legislators share that view, though their numbers have shrunk. The state House of Representatives approved the gambling bill by a vote of 132-23.

One of the “no” votes was cast by Rep. Ruth B. Balser, a Democrat who represents the city of Newton and other areas in Middlesex County. Although many lawmakers have changed their minds about gambling after years of debate, Ms. Balser has stood firm in her conviction that the negative consequences far outweigh any financial benefits the state may reap.

“I view the casino industry as a predatory business. It creates problems, it creates addictions,” she said just before speaking on the House floor in passionate opposition to the gambling bill. “Slot machines are a technology that is designed with the sole purpose of addicting. It leads to crime, bankruptcy, homelessness, incarceration.”

Analysts say Mr. Sharp and Ms. Balser are in the minority. The vast majority of people are “ambivalent” about gambling and can be persuaded to support it, especially when proponents point to hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue, said Mr. Eadington, the University of Nevada scholar.

Gambling proponents also vehemently dispute the idea that the industry will degrade social values. Although evidence suggests that financial, alcohol and other problems sometimes can be traced to gambling addiction, Massachusetts residents who can’t keep their hands off the slot-machine levers are already getting their fixes.

“People who enjoy it, where are they going?” asked Mr. Feingold of the Milford Chamber of Commerce. “They’re going to Mohegan Sun, they’re going to Foxwoods. Why not keep them here?”