A Casino at Gettysburg? No!

Roundup: Talking About History

Editorial in the Columbus Dispatch (5-24-05):

Gettysburg has to be the worst place in Pennsylvania for a casino.

Historians, Civil War buffs and preservationists would like to crush this asinine proposal before it gets off the ground.

If approved by a state commission, the casino and spa would be built about 1 1/2 miles east of the Gettysburg National Military Park, near enough to be considered a desecration of the memory of the thousands of soldiers who are buried there.

James M. McPherson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author on the Civil War, opposes this "tawdry, tasteless enterprise next to their fields of honor."

A 10-member investment group, aptly named Chance Enterprises, is led by David LeVan, a Gettysburg businessman who also owns Battlefield Harley-Davidson. He asserts that the casino would not be visible from the park, unlike the Gettysburg Tower, which was so hated by the National Park Service.

The 307-foot observation tower was a commercial venture erected in 1974 and intended to give tourists a bird's-eye view of the battlefield. Preservationists deplored it as a blot on the battlefield scenery. The tower was demolished in July 2000 during observances of the 137th anniversary of the horrific three-day battle.

Gettysburg, with its old inns, quaint streets and majestic monuments on rolling hills, would be spoiled by the addition of a gaming palace with up to 3,000 slot machines.

Other areas of the United States, such as Vicksburg, Miss., have tried to blend some tourists' interest in U.S. history with others' love of gambling. A study by the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau found that few gamblers visited the battlefield.

Clearly, the investors want to cash in on Gettysburg's success as a popular historical site. But Gettysburg's success is further reason that this idea should die. State leaders promoted casinos to stimulate the economy in depressed areas of Pennsylvania. The Gettysburg area is not in that category.

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More Comments:

Susan Star Paddock - 6/7/2005

No Casino Gettysburg www.nocasinogettysburg.com is a grass roots group trying to restore our power to say no to a Casino. In fact, there is widespread anger about the idea of a casino in Adams County, because it exploits the most important US Civil War Battlefield and will forever change our small town culture. Under ACT 71 there is absolutely NO local say or control. No vote, no zoning, traffic, health and safety laws apply. No environmental or historical impact statements required. This is a case of investors who apply to the appointed Pa. Gaming Control Board for a $50 million dollar licence, and if the Control Board approves the people of Adams County and our 2-3 million visitors a year are out of the loop. Our group set up on the square to get petitions signed and got over 1000 the first day! People were standing in line to sign it. We had many, many tourists who told us--"I won't come back if they build it." That's why we have statements of objections from the Civil War Preservation Trust, the Friends of The National Park at Gettysburg, all the area ministers, The Lutheran Theologcal Seminary, The National Council of Churches, numerous historians, and Senator Rick Santorum. This is not a community asking for a Casino. It is a State government shoving one down our throats.

John D. Beatty - 5/25/2005

I had relations fight on both sides in the Civil War, and possibly in every war this country has fought. I myself served better than a quarter century in uniform.

That said, those that fought and died at Gettysburg and thousands of other fields did so not so their battlefields would be "preserved" in some pseudo-monumental fashion and subjected to the shifting sands of differnt "interpretation" every generation, but so that ANYONE could do with it whatever they wanted, include build casinos.

This is DIRT, people, not soil made sacred by anything holy. Warfare is an ugly business, and the faster the physical signs of the horrors of it are erased the better off everyone will be. Europe, if they used the American's mind-set, would be nothing but one huge battlefield park. Great for the tourist trade, but lousy if you're trying to make a living off anything but death.

I say build the casino at Gettysburg if the people there want it. Don't if they don't. The only voices that should _matter_ in this issue are those of the taxpayers in Adam County, Pennsylvania. All others are certainly welcome to speak, but their real influence should be strictly limited.

The soldiers that died there could be paid no higher tribute.