I am writing this letter in hope of appealing to, as Abraham Lincoln put it, “the better angels” of your nature. I am asking that you set aside the results of one of your long term goals as governor of our great Commonwealth.
By its nature, gambling in Pennsylvania has the appearance of a pot of gold under the rainbow, an answer to a growing state budget that is outstripping revenues. Unfortunately, the legislation presented for your signature last summer, Acts 71 and 72, falls far short in so many areas as to become some of the worst legislation ever written. It is full of conflicts of interest, ethical wrongs, and open invitations to graft and corruption.
Already, newspapers across the country are writing of conflicts involving lobbyists who own interests in gaming companies, making deals with gaming equipment manufacturers -- and not one spade-full of earth has yet been turned to construct a casino in Pennsylvania. A member of the State Assembly is under investigation regarding a land deal for a proposed casino -- and not one cubic yard of concrete has been poured yet to construct a casino. The State Assembly is one of the parties responsible for selecting members of the Gaming Control Commission, yet these same elected officials are permitted by language in Act 71 to own a percentage of a casino, or casinos – a clear conflict of interest. There is more, such as the oppressive language struck out of Act 71 by the Commonwealth Supreme Court that allowed the Gaming Control Commission to locate a casino wherever it chose, regardless of local zoning ordinances, or local opposition.
In Gettysburg, local opposition is extremely broad based and organized against the placement of a casino there. Polls conducted by the local members of the State Assembly over a year ago show a minimum of 70% of the local constituents oppose the presence of a casino in the area. More recent polls show a higher rate of opposition, and even more alarming, over 50% of visitors to Gettysburg who were asked, responded by saying they would not return to Gettysburg if a casino was located here.
Many in Gettysburg feel that one of the heroes of the great battle that was fought here said it best. Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, of the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment wrote after the war,
"In great deeds something abides. On great fields something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear, but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls. And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field to ponder and dream; And lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls."
For the reasons stated above, I urge you in the strongest of terms to foster the repeal of Act 71 and Act 72. There is little to recommend either piece of legislation. Act 71 will make a lot of money for a few investors, but will do little for the communities in which the casinos are located but cause heartache and economic shortfalls, and corrupt the lives of many who are involved in the industry, even peripherally. As you are aware, Act 72 has been rejected overwhelmingly by the school boards of the Commonwealth. Few believe the funding for education will meet or even approach projected levels.
Good legislation, once passed, requires the confidence of the people, and neither Act 71, nor Act 72 holds such confidence. The reasons vary, but the lack is apparent. In general, both Acts were arrogant and misguided attempts to solve fiscal problems by involving the people of the Commonwealth in an industry that attracts addiction, and for which there is a side industry based on aiding the recovery from that addiction. That simply does not square with the meaning of the word from which we derive the word “Commonwealth”: commonweal, meaning the general well being of the people. Neither Act 71, nor Act 72 meets this litmus test.
Please foster the repeal of these two bad Acts, and sign the repealing legislation, rather than vetoing it. Set the State Assembly to the task of passing responsible legislation to develop alternatives to Act 71, on a much smaller scale than the current bill, and do not tie municipal or educational funding to it. They can and must do better than Acts 71 and 72.
Thank you Governor, for your time and attention to this matter.
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