Casino opponents, stung by the state Supreme Court's decision Friday to issue a preliminary injunction knocking a referendum on the issue off the May 15 ballot, vowed yesterday to find another way to cast their ballots on the issue.

About 60 Casino-Free Philadelphia supporters gathered in a chilly drizzle outside City Hall to announce that they will collect votes on the referendum outside polling places next month.

The referendum asked if the two casinos planned for the city should be banned from being built within 1,500 feet of homes, schools, churches, parks and other public spaces.

The state Gaming Control Board said the referendum illegally challenged its authority to decide where casinos should be situated.

The Supreme Court has ordered an expedited schedule for legal arguments to decide if the injunction will be made permanent.

The protesters marched to City Hall's fourth floor, where the Supreme Court was in session, to express their disappointment.

"We want to let them know that we're here, that we're watching them very closely and that we think it's a shame that they're threatening to take away our vote," Casino-Free Philadelphia organizer Daniel Hunter said.

Councilman Frank DiCicco accompanied the protesters and suggested that they mount a write-in campaign for the referendum rather than stage their own election outside of the 1,681 voting districts in the city.

But Bob Lee, the city's voter- registration administrator, later said there is no mechanism to write in referendum questions and then cast ballots on the voting machines used in the city.

Dan Fee, a spokesman for the SugarHouse Casino, which would be built on the Delaware riverfront in Fishtown, responded to the protest with this statement:

"We think their time would be better used trying to work with us to find a way to develop these casinos and bring thousands of jobs to the city and generate millions of dollars to put more police on the street, but since this is a group that is trying to get people to lay in front of bulldozers if that's what it takes to get their way, we're not really surprised." *