HUGE, UGLY monstrosities, disruptive to the surrounding neighborhoods, expensive to build and destined to cater to only a small fraction of the population - and there's not just one, but two of them.

In the realm of large public projects of questionable investment, it's hard to beat the Eagles and Phillies stadiums.

Given that for the next 20 or so years, taxpayers are on the hook for about $30 million a year for the debt service alone, the stadiums make the casinos look like rustic shrines to Mother Teresa.

We bring them up because the stadiums may offer something that's been elusive in the battle over the casinos in the city: perspective.

Last week, the state Supreme Court overruled the city's attempt to control the zoning of the casinos, a ruling considered by many to be one of the last remaining options the city had to fight back. Given the lack of legal options left, it's about time for a little perspective.

It may also be time to ask whether the potential gains the city might realize by further fighting the casino locations are overshadowed by what could be lost.

Already, the monetary losses are mounting. The state says that the delays in the two Philadelphia casinos are costing $1 million a day in taxes. The city is losing $72,000 a day in revenue. (Which, incidentally, would come close to paying the debt service on the stadiums.)

Of course, casino opponents will tell you that's a small price to pay for holding onto your soul.

We opposed the original casino legislation - and we opposed it from the beginning, unlike the politicians in Harrisburg who voted yes and have since tried to distance themselves from it - but we also don't think that a city of this size and complexity will be destroyed by two slots parlors.

We think it stinks for the people who live across the street, but we also wonder how much worse other potential waterfront development might have been if it were allowed to spring up here in the absence of casinos - like another gated high-rise condo tower or big-box store - none of which would be subject to the kind of scrutiny that the casinos have generated, or will generate as they move forward.

That's in part thanks to another productive offshoot of the casino battle: A new plan for the Delaware riverfront that represents a more thoughtful public planning process for the city.

THIS IS NOT TO say the state's and the court's encroachment into the city's zoning and planning isn't outrageous. But the state and the courts are not going away until the casinos get built. The city should now consider separating the casino issue from the control issue, and fighting back hard on it.

The unintended benefits the city has reaped because of the battle over the casinos - a new waterfront-planning process, the impressive civic muscles flexed by community groups and the handful of sleepless nights the city has to have given Harrisburg over the issue - are significant.

But when it comes to actually stopping them, we've had a long, expensive losing streak. It's time to consider walking away from the table before the losses start to bankrupt us. *