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New threat to Gettysburg battlefield

Just three years ago, preservationists waged and won their own battle at Gettysburg to keep state-licensed gambling away from the national park. It was a long, drawn-out struggle that gained international attention before Pennsylvania officials rejected an application for a slots casino just east of the park.

Now, the state is considering three more licenses for slots and the Gettysburg pro-casino forces are back with a new plan. This time the proposed location is even closer to the park at the privately-owned Eisenhower Hotel and Conference Center, just south of Gettysburg on Business Rt. 15.


Although legislation for new licenses is only in the talking stage, a decision by the state lawmakers could come as soon as the end of this month. If the state were to create three new licenses, Gettysburg businessman David LeVan, who lost out on the 2006 casino license application, has said he would apply for one of the new licenses. He has an an option to buy the Eisenhower Hotel.

LeVan, a native of Gettysburg who owns Gettysburg Harley-Davidson, is a retired chairman of Conrail. The hotel is named for the nearby Eisenhower National Historic Site where former President Dwight D. Eisenhower had his home.

The talk has been enough to re-energize No Casino Gettysburg, a volunteer group that led the attack on the earlier casino application. Susan Star Paddock, a Gettysburg counselor and licensed social worker, heads the organization and wrote a recent editorial in the Hanover (Pa.) Sun.

Paddock repeated all the reasons for the earlier opposition to a casino near the Gettysburg battlefield, including heritage tourists being "deeply" offended by a casino near hallowed ground, the inability for a casino to survive in a rural setting and overwhelming competition from casinos in nearby states.

"As long as Gettysburg is threatened with a casino close to hallowed grounds, there will be major local, national and international opposition," she wrote on Dec. 9.

A major player in the defeat of the 2006 application was the
Civil War Preservation Trust, the country's largest Civil War battlefield preservation organization.

Trust spokesman Jim Campi said his organization is "investigating renewed investor interest in another casino near Gettysburg National Military Park. As always, the Civil War Preservation Trust remains firmly committed to protecting the integrity of the Gettysburg battlefield, a true national treasure and America's most famous and hallowed battlefield."

By Linda Wheeler  |  December 13, 2009; 10:45 AM ET
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"Deeply offended" is right. We arrived in town for the first time in 2008 to find the street three-deep in Harleys and the redneck ladies and gentlemen who ride them—wheelstands and earsplitting throttle noise were the preferred way for these historians to show their love for the national battlefield. Gettysburg itself is's the low-life who want to make a buck and party off its reputation that are going to kill it.

Posted by: jimtoohey | December 14, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Capitalism at it's best.

Posted by: jckdoors | December 14, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

As an American with an ancestor who fought at Gettysburg, was severely wounded, and is buried with his comrades who gave their lives to save the Union and deliver us from the curse of slavery, I am disgusted and offended by the scheme to erect casinos on this ground, sacred to every patriot. Just juxtapose in your mind the Gettysburg Address and slot machines...

I fully share jimtoohey's comment about the Harley crowd. But of course these rednecks mostly come from the late Confederacy, so their "respect" is being expressed appropriately.

Posted by: jasm917 | December 14, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

It isnt hurting anyone. I bet both union and confederate soldiers played cards and gambled there 150 years ago. It seems like a mute point anyways, who wants to gamble at a casino in the middle of nowhere. Gettysburg is an hour away from any major city.

The house might actually loose this bet, not only does the potential owner have to go to war with history nuts, but the economy's in shambles and nobody's gambling these days because nobody has spare income.

Posted by: JustinFromDC | December 14, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

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