Thursday, January 19, 2006

Gettysburg Casino Developers Refuse Public Meeting


In response to the stepped up print and radio advertising campaign by the Chance Investors, backers of the proposed Croosroads Casino, Resort and Spa, at Gettysburg, the opposition has issued an update:

From: No Casino Gettysburg-- a non-profit, grass roots citizen action committee.
www.NoCasinoGettysburg.com
PO Box 3173, Gettysburg, PA 17325
Contact: Susan Star Paddock, Chair

Updates:

Gettysburg Casino Developers Refuse Public Meeting; Virtual Debate Rages On
On 1/11/06, after the hearings before the House Committee on Tourism for the Maitland Bill, No Casino Gettysburg Chairperson Susan Star Paddock introduced herself to Chance Attorney Kathryn Lease Simpson, and asked if Chance would participate in a public debate with No Casino, or if not a debate, appear at the same meeting to give a presentation.

Paddock reports, “I told her about our planned meeting Feb 11 at the Seminary from 9-12, and said that might be a good forum. She said she'd ask about it. Then I saw an opportunity to talk with Chance attorney Jeff Ernico, husband of investor Barbara Ernico, and a third Chance attorney, Robin Ross of Greenlee Partners of Philadelphia.

I asked Jeff the same thing I asked Lease, but he clearly doesn't need to check with anyone before answering. He seemed angry that I asked and said NO! He said they would only appear with us when invited by an "appropriate government authority" and would not participate "in a sideshow".

I asked him directly because over the last months several people have approached me with the idea of organizing a public forum for the two sides. We always say yes; Chance always says no. They will not meet the public. Even their first press conference was invitation only, and according to Mark Berg, it was the Chance Attorney Jeff Ernico who ejected him from that meeting at the Gettysburg Hotel before it began. This attitude makes their claim of caring about the people of Adams County questionable at best. I believe that listening to people is a basic way of establishing a relationship of mutual care.

I guess the "appropriate government authority" would be the PGCB's public hearings to be held in our County sometime in the future. We'll be there.

Virtual Debate Rages On
On the home page of
http://www.nocasinogettysburg.com/ we have posted

  1. Chance's unabridged "Local Impact Report".
  2. Expert Mike Siegel's preliminary notes on what is missing from the report.
  3. Keith Miller's FACTS report on social impact costs of the casino, AND
  4. Chance's Answers to Miller and Siegel with Miller's answers to Chance's comments.
This is a virtual debate, since Chance Enterprises has refused to debate or even to appear in public with No Casino unless required by an "appropriate governmental authority."

So the virtual debate continues!

Public Seminar and Citizen Mobilization Conference 9-12, Saturday Feb 11, Lutheran Theological Seminary. You’ll get ALL the facts and Figure out how YOU, whoever you are, can help.

1/10/06 Public Presentation to the Commissioners:
Thanks to everyone who sent in donations to make our presentation to the commissioners successful. The room was an overflow crowd and about 30 people could not get in. The Commissioners had set the date and time and place, and refused to offer a larger room. The room was under construction and only about 30 chairs were available. Many people stood through the entire meeting. Chance attorneys Jeff Ernico and John White did attend, stood, and took careful notes. Two posters on the message board, Bob and Sharon Walters, came in “Go Casino” t-shirts. There was good local news coverage.

Commissioners Lucy Lott and Glenn Snyder attended. Tom Weaver did not, saying he didn’t need to listen to our “propaganda” since he knew what we would say, and he is for the casino. Susan Paddock told a reporter later that he was “bought and sold”, and he threatened to sue. I amended the statement to say he had “bought Chance’s report and sold out the County.” I also said his pro-casino stance would cost him the next election, since the Susquehanna Polling and Research poll last July found the majority of Adams County voters are AGAINST the casino.

Jim Paddock presented a map we obtained from the County revealing that the site is exactly 1 mile from East Cavalry Field, and 1.46 miles from the rest of the battlefield.

Keith Miller, business consultant, and NCG volunteer, presented a report that shows that the Casino costs will be 10x the income to the County. That full report is downloadable on the
http://www.nocasinogettysburg.com/ website on “The Investors” Page. Miller’s report on the devastating social impacts for Adams County was done in consultation with two national experts, economist Earl Grinols, author of “Gambling in America: Costs and Benefits”, and psychologist Robert Breen, Gambling Addiction expert. Rhode Island Hospital Gambling Treatment Program.

The main presentation will be by Michael Siegel of Public and Environmental Finance Consultants in Washington, DC. Mr. Siegel presented a preliminary report on fiscal impact of the Gettysburg casino, identifying the weaknesses in the Chance report.

“Mr. Siegel hasn’t had time to do a complete analysis, said Paddock, but his report showed that this casino is not competitive, so would not benefit the state. His preliminary evaluation of the weaknesses in the Chance report is downloadable as a PDF file on “the investors” page of
http://www.nocasinogettysburg.com/. Incidentally, the entire Chance Enterprises Local Impact Report is available ONLY on our website as well.

1/11/06 Highlights of Hearings on House Bill 2264 1/11/06

Quite a few No Casino Gettysburg supporters attended this hearing.
Four of us testified for No Casino Gettysburg on the Bill that would keep a casino 15 miles from the Gettysburg National Military Park:
Susan Star Paddock, Chair No Casino Gettysburg, Larry Clowers, Director of Civil War Studies, American Museum of Military History, Mary Goundrey, Civil War Preservation Trust, and Keith Miller, MBA, Business Consultant.

We enjoyed testifying in the legislature, and we made an excellent case that Heritage Tourism, a mainstay of our economy and a benefit to the state as a whole, would be harmed by the introduction of a casino near Gettysburg. Heritage Tourism is down 25% in Harpers Ferry (Charles Town is 6 miles away) and Vicksburg, based on NPS data. Tourists stay away because they don’t want to battle casino traffic to get to the Battlefields, and because the casino changes the town’s character.

I don’t yet have the transcript from the hearing so all quotes are approximate.

At the hearing before the House Committee on Tourism, Chance attorney Kathryn Lease Simpson says Chance should not be penalized from putting a casino exactly 1 mile from East Cavalry field because of “an accident of geography”. She says Chance’s claim that their facility was “nearly 3 miles from the battlefield” came from a road sign on Rt. 15/30. She said there is no good road from E. Cavalry Field to the site, forgetting Cavalry Field Road where Battlefield Harley sits. She suggested that almost no one visits East Cavalry Field anyway.

She says they do intend to install the maximum number of slot machines, 5000, in stages, starting with 3000. She repeated the claim made in Chance’s Local Impact Report that visitation in Vicksburg was up, in an attempt to refute our claim that the casinos had harmed heritage tourism there and it was down. One of the Committee members, Rep. Boyd, asked her if she had any figures to back that up, since our claim that it had fallen since casinos came in was based on figures from the National Park Service. She had no figures to back up her claims. In general her testimony was extremely weak.

The Committee members expressed concern that the bill would open the legislature to lawsuits and Chairman Godshall said it would cut out other applicants like all but one of the Philadelphia City applicants, an applicant near Ft. Necessity near Pittsburgh, and an applicant 10 miles from Valley Forge. The bill is flawed, but Paddock challenged the legislators to re-draft it, saying, “we are the amateurs; you have the means to draft a bill that would pass the legislature and save Gettysburg.

Several legislators suggested re-drafting the legislation to apply only to Adams. One suggested putting in a provision to provide compensation to the investors who applied in good faith. The bill, if passed, could let Chance depart happy because they have a big chunk of money in compensation and perhaps are thus better off than if we let it go to the PGCB, who will reject it and then they get nothing.

The advantage of the bill for us is that it protects Gettysburg in the future from casino speculation. So everybody wins.

On 1/13/05 Steve Maitland said the legislators will amend the bill, because the sense of the legislature is they do want to protect Gettysburg.

--end--

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