Gettysburg casino plan ignites modern battle

Wed Sep 1, 2010 11:08am EDT
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By Jon Hurdle

GETTYSBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters Life!) - Plans to build a casino on the edge of America's most famous Civil War battlefield have sparked a modern-day battle that resonates beyond southern Pennsylvania.

Opponents of the proposed Mason-Dixon Resort & Casino told a public hearing on Tuesday that the 70,000-square-foot resort with 50 gaming tables and 600 slot machines would violate a treasured piece of American history. But those in favor of it argued it will benefit the local economy.

Both sides presented their arguments to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board which will decide the fate of the proposal before the end of the year.

"Adams County families need jobs, economic relief and most of all tax relief," said Carol Miller, of a local group called Families Who Support Mason-Dixon.

David LeVan, a local developer who failed in a 2005 bid to build another casino near Gettysburg, wants to convert an existing hotel, situated half a mile from the battlefield where the Union army fought the decisive victory over the Confederacy in 1863, into the resort.

He said the $75 million project would generate 375 jobs and save 100 more in the existing hotel. Recent opinion polls, LeVan added, have shown about 60 percent of local people support his plan.

But opponents, who have collected more than 30,000 signatures and stacked the petitions in cardboard boxes marked "Save Gettysburg" in front of the five-member gaming board at the hearing, are not convinced.

"This petition is signed by Americans nationwide and shows that this is much more than a local issue," said Cinda Waldbuesser, of the National Parks Conservation Association. "Gettysburg National Military Park is a national treasure that belongs to all Americans."   Continued...