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Opposition grows to Gettysburg casino

On the eve of the 147th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863), more than 270 American historians, including many prominent academics, today sent a clear message to the Pennsylvania gaming authority that they are united in their opposition to a proposed casino one-half mile from the country’s most famous battlefield.

Among the well-known historians who signed the letter are James McPherson, Edwin C. Bearss, Garry Willis, Jeffrey Wert and Carol Reardon. A coalition of six historical organizations, jointly representing more than 35,000 historians and researchers, has also joined in the effort.

Their message is this: There are many Pennsylvania sites for a casino but only one Gettysburg.

Although the site of the proposed casino is outside the Gettysburg National Military Park boundaries, it is still within the Gettysburg battlefield. The area, known as the South Cavalry Field, saw substantial fighting on the third day of the battle.

McPherson, best known for his Pulitzer prize winning book,"Battle Cry of Freedom," said of the South Cavalry Field, "This ground is as hallowed as any other part of the Gettysburg battlefield, and the idea of a casino near the fields and woods where men from the North and the South gave the last full measure of devotion is simply outrageous."

The joint letter-writing effort was organized by the Civil War Preservation Trust, National Parks Conservation Association, National Trust for Historic Preservation and Preservation Pennsylvania.

This is round two of an attempt to locate a casino near Gettysburg. In 2006, after a deluge of public criticism of another proposed casino also near the battlefield, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board turned that applicant down. The principle investor involved in the latest bid for a casino license, Gettysburg native and business owner David LeVan, was also involved in the first attempt.

LeVan’s business venture, the Mason-Dixon Resort & Casino, has an option to purchase the existing Eisenhower Hotel and Conference Center just south of the national park and has said it would transform it into an estimated 600-slot casino and luxury 300-room hotel offering live entertainment and dining.

LeVan maintains a casino would be good for Adams County because it would generate local jobs, increase the number of visitors to the area and give the state much needed revenue.

The state gaming authority, founded in 2004 when casino gambling was introduced to the state, has accepted five applications for the one license available for a slots-only casino. No date has been set for a public hearing.

By Linda Wheeler  |  June 29, 2010; 10:31 PM ET
 
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Comments

Actually, support for the Mason-Dixon Resort & Casino seems to be growing.

I live in the Gettysburg-Adams County area and while I see a couple of yard signs that oppose the casino, they mostly appear on the lawns of well-to-do McMansions.

The great majority of yard signs in support of the casino are quite widespread.

Another thing I've discovered is that there seems to be dozens of small businesses in the Gettysburg-Adams County area that have placards in their storefront windows expressing support for the Mason-Dixon Resort & Casino.

It would be fair if the Washington Post were to screen this particular blogger more carefully. Actually, support for the Mason-Dixon Resort & Casino seems to be growing.

I live in the Gettysburg-Adams County area and while I see a couple of yard signs that oppose the casino, they mostly appear on the lawns of the well-to-do, McMansions.

The great majority of yard signs in support of the casino are quite widespread.

Another thing I've discovered is that there seems to be dozens of small businesses in the Gettysburg-Adams County area that have placards in their storefront windows expressing support for the Mason-Dixon Resort & Casino.

This widely-supported project has absolutely nothing to do with "A Blog About The Civil War."

The Civil War was around 150-years ago. Economic Development in a region that has a nearly 10% unemployment rate is today.

And history can survive (and flourish) with up-and-downstream help from 21st Century ideas.

Posted by: Vandenbroek | July 1, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

The casino may be widely supported in Adams County, but that doesn't mean they get to railroad it through. Nobody would be considering locating this casino in Adams County but for the fact the biggest battlefield in the Western Hemisphere is located there. And the battlefield is not from the Adams County Civil War, but the AMERICAN Civil War. It's a national site, and all Americans have a voice in what occurs there. Fair to Adams County? No. But then Adams County gets a lot more tourist dollars than most other American counties. Such is the price you pay for history in your back yard.

Posted by: huguenotklj | July 2, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

I am not a knee jerk presevationist who thinks the sky is falling everytime commercial development is proposed near a Civil War battlefied, nor am I particularly against casinos. However, I find the plan to build a casino 1/2 mile from the Gettysburg Battlefield--the most important and accessible Civil War battlefied in the country--absolutely appaling! This is like putting a casino next to Arlington National Cemetary or the Statue of Liberty. To piggyback a casino on the back of the battlefield's popularity as a public attraction is not only tasteless and crass, but ultimately economically shortsighted for Gettysburg area residents.

The economic benefits of a casino to a community are short term. It will create some local jobs and the state will get its tax revenue, but the promised long-term economic benefits often turn out to be a mirage Look around at where other casinos are located. The casinos are doing fine, but ultimately they don't do much for the communities they are in.

I'm not surprised there is local public support for the casino. Casino developers tout all the alleged economic benefits and have the finances to get their message across and the state, blinded with the prospect of enhanced revenues, touts it as well. It all sounds good, but then, like proposed big sports stadiums, once built turn out to be much less beneficial to the local community than promised. Examples abound.

Regarding Vandenbroek's unwarrented slam against the author, he should be aware that threats to Civil War battlefields by development are always of intense interest to those interested in the Civil War. Perhaps he should be more concerned with history and preserving its symbols and less as an apologist for casino developers.

If the casino is so good for Gettysburg and Pennsylvania as Vandenbroek believes, then move it 10 miles up the road. It would provide the same alleged benefits there without the degration of the nation's most important Civil War battlefield.

Linda Wheeler, please keep us informed on this issue and keep up the good work.

Posted by: yankeebob | July 3, 2010 8:19 AM | Report abuse

A battlefield is a spot of ground soaked in the blood of heroes. A casino exists to take the money of people desperate enough to believe that the laws of statistics will be suspended for them. Voters think that casinos might help fund schools. Las Vegas has long been linked to organized crime. Why should a mini-Las Vegas be any different?

A casino? Sure. Any place in Pennsylvania but Gettysburg.

Linda Wheeler's column is always full of useful information. I may not comment very often, but I read her frequently. I'm delight her column continues.

Posted by: civilwarjustice | July 4, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

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