Published: Thursday, April 6, 2006
Hearing gives voice to casino questions
One speaker said a casino would provide year-round tourism.
GETTYSBURG, Pa. (AP) Local residents, community groups and casino applicants took their first opportunity to sway gambling regulators at a public hearing Wednesday on the contentious proposal for a nearby slot-machine parlor.
The proposed casino near the historic town of Gettysburg and the Civil War battlefields around it has stirred up opposition from preservationists and some area residents, even though the town council voted to support the idea.
About 400 people listened in a Gettysburg College auditorium as the casino group's chief executive, David LeVan, spoke first to gambling regulators. LeVan told them that he is a "native son" who became a successful businessman and philanthropist.
"This is my way of telling you that I have carefully considered this project and I believe it is in the best interest of Adams County, and it is in fact the best economic development opportunity this county has ever seen," he said.
LeVan stressed that the casino would not capitalize on the area's Civil War heritage. He said its appeal to the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., areas would transform Gettysburg's seasonal tourism into a year-round attraction.
Here's a concern
A common concern expressed by the plan's opponents was that a slots casino would ruin the rural and historic character of the fruit orchards, battlefields and villages around Gettysburg.
Gettysburg College students, parents and professors testified that gambling is antithetical to the school's educational mission and the community's stewardship of the battlefields.
"Nationally, the perception will be, 'What were they thinking ... when they put a casino in Gettysburg?'" said Richard E. Jordan, a Gettysburg resident who spoke for the college's Parents Advisory Board.
Some audience members wore T-shirts indicating support for or against the project, but no demonstrations materialized and plenty of empty seats remained in the auditorium. One casino opponent, whose great-grandfather fought at Gettysburg, came dressed as Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Located a mile away in neighboring Straban Township, the Crossroads Gaming Resort and Spa could also draw visitors from the 2 million people who visit the battlefields each year.
The testimony was the first of 18 days during which the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will listen to public comment on 22 separate applications for a slots parlor from Erie to Philadelphia. Board members hope to award all 14 licenses to operate slots parlors by the end of the year.
The board's deliberations will take into account the public comment along with the applicants' experience, business plan and site selection.
Gov. Ed Rendell hopes that slot machines will eventually generate $3 billion in revenue a year, one-third of which is earmarked for public schools as a way to cut property taxes.
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