Thursday, March 02, 2006

102: “The Civil War Preservation Trust Fires Back”


No commentary needed about this one. This is from Jim Campi at the Civil War Preservation Trust.
LEVAN, CHANCE ENTERPRISES, LOSING DEBATE OVER SLOTS PARLOR AT GETTYSBURG

Chance statement is the latest in a series of misleading documents from them about proposed slots parlor at Gettysburg

(Gettysburg, Pa.) – In a press statement issued on Tuesday, February 28, Gettysburg Gaming Resort and Spa CEO David LeVan lashed out at the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) for identifying Gettysburg as one of the nation’s most endangered battlefields. CWPT cited LeVan’s ill-advised casino plan as the primary reason for the listing in their annual report, History Under Siege, issued the same day. LeVan also claimed that a recent fundraising letter issued by CWPT was misleading. The letter appealed to preservationists to express their opposition to a proposed slots parlor at Gettysburg.

The charges are another round in the growing controversy surrounding the proposed casino plan. According to James Lighthizer, President of CWPT, “Mr. LeVan’s statement is further evidence that he and his partners are losing the debate over their Gettysburg casino project. Their most recent remarks are unworthy of the great issues at stake here for Pennsylvania and the nation.”

Public Opposition to Gambling at Gettysburg Is Growing
Since the Gettysburg Gaming Resort proposal was unveiled in April 2005, public opposition to the project has been persistent and vocal. Local residents formed No Casino Gettysburg, a Gettysburg-based volunteer organization opposed to the project. No Casino Gettysburg has energized tens of thousands of people in Adams County and throughout the nation in opposition to the Chance proposal.

Today, opposition is more vocal than it was just a few months ago when Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, Inc. conducted a public opinion poll about Pennsylvania voter attitudes toward a casino at Gettysburg. At that time, October 2005, their poll found that 65 percent of Pennsylvania voters oppose a casino at Gettysburg. In addition, 55 percent indicated that they would oppose a casino near any unnamed historic site in Pennsylvania.

In Central Pennsylvania, where the proposed casino would be located, the opposition was even more pronounced. According to the survey, more than three-quarters (78 percent) of Central Pennsylvania voters opposed building a casino at Gettysburg. Only 16 percent expressed support for the concept.

Regional and National Opposition to a Casino Near Hallowed Ground
National, state and local elected officials have gone on the record against a casino at Gettysburg, including the Keystone State’s two United States Senators, Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum. Perhaps most notable are statements by Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, who has repeatedly indicated that he opposes a casino at Gettysburg. According to Rendell, “if that proposal is anywhere near the historic area of Gettysburg, I would oppose it.”

Chance Cannot Substantiate Economic Claims
Despite community resistance, LeVan and the other investors in Chance Enterprises, sponsors of the Gettysburg Gaming Resort and Spa (recently renamed Crossroads Gaming Resort and Spa to mask their proximity to the famed battlefield), are claiming economic benefits that cannot be substantiated or documented. Following are just a few examples of the fundamental errors in the Chance Local Impact Report (LIR), released to the Adams County Commissioners in December of last year:

Job Creation and Overnight Stays: Chance’s claims that the casino will generate 3,000 jobs is pure fantasy. That figure is based in part on an undocumented and unsubstantiated assumption that one-third of its assumed 3.2 million non-local visitors will stay overnight in Adams County. The truth is that there is no single stand-alone casino anywhere in the U.S. that generates this level of overnight visitors. Industry studies indicate that the figure is closer to 5 to 7 percent for this type of casino.

Damage to Existing Businesses: The Chance LIR also fails to address the damage its casino will cause to existing businesses by diverting local resident and existing visitor expenditures to the casino. This will profoundly affect the viability of Gettysburg’s historic downtown business district and other businesses in the area. In addition, businesses that cater to local residents will also be negatively impacted to the extent that local residents divert their income/spending to the casino.

Failure to Consider Competition: The Chance LIR presents what few documented figures it does offer as if its slots parlor will exist in a vacuum. No consideration is given to the competition it will receive from the other casinos that will be established in Pennsylvania or casinos and racinos in West Virginia and Delaware. Relative to its primary competition, Chance is an under-capitalized company and has no casino experience whatsoever. It will need to compete against two other casinos within its market area – both of which will be owned by Penn National, a $2.6 billion publicly traded company with casino operations in several states. Its need to compete against Penn National’s two casinos and possibly casinos at Nemacolin and/or Limerick, will cause the number of jobs Chance’ casino will generate to be only a fraction of the 3,000 it purports.

Tourism to Gettysburg: Gettysburg is one of the most well known heritage tourism sites in the nation; approximately 1.7 million visitors flock to the battlefield each year. It is also one of the top tourist destinations in Pennsylvania, and its location makes it a gateway to visitors from Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and elsewhere. Locating a casino in Gettysburg amounts to “brand pollution” and will have negative consequences for Pennsylvania that will not be confined to the Gettysburg area. The Chance LIR completely ignores the potential impact of the casino on tourism.

Most Endangered Battlefield Designation
CWPT announced that it had included Gettysburg in its annual report on the ten most endangered battlefields in America at a Washington, D.C. news conference featuring commentator, economist, and beloved actor Ben Stein.

Stein has long been a passionate supporter of preservation. In his remarks, he stated: “When we show respect and try to keep a casino from being built near sacred ground in Gettysburg, we show respect for those who fight and for those who did fight. We show respect when we take care of sacred earth. We do not show respect when we even consider putting a casino within a mile of one of the holiest spots in American history at Gettysburg. That idea is so stunningly inappropriate that it makes my head spin.”

Later in the news conference, Stein returned to the issue of a Gettysburg casino, emphasizing: “They [the battlefields] were places where people died in incredible agony, alone, by themselves, for causes that they had to have believed in with every cell in their body. And for us to neglect them now and to say it is just as meaningful to have a casino where people are going to put dimes in a slot machine as to have a place where people gave up their lives for a cause they believed in – it’s just insanity.”

Response to Chance Statement

Fueling the current round of attacks against CWPT are Chance’s recent claims that the group is using the casino issue for their own purposes. The Chance statement references one of several letters mailed by CWPT as part of a membership recruitment campaign against the Gettysburg casino project (the most recent letter was mailed in mid-February).

Lighthizer noted that CWPT is raising funds to underwrite informational materials about the casino project. Funds from the letters also went to purchase hallowed ground in Gettysburg and Fort Donelson, Tenn. In the letter, CWPT asked recipients to sign petitions against the casino, and become citizen co-sponsors of Pennsylvania House Bill No. 2264, legislation that would prevent a casino at Gettysburg. Thousands of Pennsylvanians have done so.

Lighthizer responded to the accusation that CWPT didn’t think the issue was important enough to provoke a “Most Endangered” designation earlier by saying that the Casino was announced in April 2005 while the annual CWPT report is always issued in February making the 2006 report the first one that could address the Gettysburg Gaming Resort controversy.

Lighthizer said: “With all its misleading promises about the benefits of a casino, maybe Chance investors really do think they are running a charitable institution. We certainly do not begrudge them their attempt to profit from Pennsylvania’s decision to legalize gambling; we only ask that they find someplace else to put their casino. They can put their slot machines anywhere, but no one can move Gettysburg’s hallowed ground.”

With 75,000 members, CWPT is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation’s remaining Civil War battlefields. Since 1987, the organization has saved more than 22,300 acres of hallowed ground, including 591 acres at Gettysburg. CWPT’s website is located at www.civilwar.org.
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Jim Campi, Policy and Communications Director
Civil War Preservation Trust
1331 H Street NW
Suite 1001
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: (202) 367-1861
http://www.civilwar.org
I’ll be perfectly honest with you. When it comes to who do you trust, I certainly put my trust in Jim Campi, Jim Lighthizer and the CWPT. First off, they are not in the preservation game for the money. They are a legitimate non-profit with a track record of using their member’s money and donations for purchasing land and easements on Civil War sites. They spend countless hours behind the scenes as well, strategizing with local individuals and groups on how best to preserve the land. They are a smart organization that does so much good for the nation’s heritage, they deserve better than petulant accusations from someone who’s credibility is completely shot.

Between David LeVan and his Chance mouthpiece Barbara Ernico, the public has not gotten an honest picture of the casino operations, or its impact on the local area. All of Chance’s positive claims have been refuted by a masterful impact statement written by No Casino Gettysburg’s Keith Miller, et al, and with Earl Grinols.

Further, as documented by our essay #53 from last October (“
Threats and Lies in Gettysburg”), the investors are not above making threats, some not so subtle. It is what those who follow this struggle closely have come to expect from LeVan and Ernico. Threats and outright distortions have become their mainstay. There is little if any factually provable info on their website that would make the casino a viable plus for the area. Nothing. And in the end, there is the insult to the Civil War legacy of the Gettysburg area imposed by the presence of the casino.

Based on their track record, I am sure you would find the decision to trust the CWPT as easy as I do. They do good, and caring work in the face of the runaway development that has brought on this onslaught against Civil War heritage sites. They are what is commonly referred to as “good people”. Trust is a part of their name.

I see nothing in Chance Enterprises, Barbara Ernico, or David LeVan that puts them on the same level as the CWPT. Far from it in fact. It is no contest.

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“With all its misleading promises about the benefits of a casino, maybe Chance investors really do think they are running a charitable institution. We certainly do not begrudge them their attempt to profit from Pennsylvania’s decision to legalize gambling; we only ask that they find someplace else to put their casino. They can put their slot machines anywhere, but no one can move Gettysburg’s hallowed ground.”-- Jim Lighthizer, CWPT

“When we show respect and try to keep a casino from being built near sacred ground in Gettysburg, we show respect for those who fight and for those who did fight. We show respect when we take care of sacred earth. We do not show respect when we even consider putting a casino within a mile of one of the holiest spots in American history at Gettysburg. That idea is so stunningly inappropriate that it makes my head spin.”--Ben Stein

“They [the battlefields] were places where people died in incredible agony, alone, by themselves, for causes that they had to have believed in with every cell in their body. And for us to neglect them now and to say it is just as meaningful to have a casino where people are going to put dimes in a slot machine as to have a place where people gave up their lives for a cause they believed in – it’s just insanity.”--Ben Stein

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