Thursday, July 06, 2006

179: “Casino on Battlefield Would Be A Loss For All”


Below is an op-ed piece published July 3rd in the Philadelphia Inquirer. It basically speaks for itself:

Casino on battlefield would be a loss for all

By Jim Lighthizer and Tom Kiernan
July 3, 2006

In a high-stakes operation like a casino, there are always winners and losers. Build a casino at Gettysburg, and there would be one winner - the owner - while the losers would be too numerous to count.

Chance Enterprises, the investment group behind the proposed Crossroads Gaming Resort & Spa, wants to build a 3,000-slot casino one mile from the edge of the Gettysburg National Military Park. Casino officials tout the jobs and economic benefits the facility would provide, but these claims are overstated.

With about 1.7 million visitors annually, and with visitation growing steadily, Gettysburg is one of the top tourist destinations in Pennsylvania. Known for its quaint charm, downtown shops and restaurants, and, of course, the battlefield, Gettysburg is a pleasant, family-friendly place to visit. A casino would seriously detract from that enduring appeal.

In addition to conflicting with the historic character of a beloved national battlefield, the casino would divert a whopping $60 million from local businesses, according to a recent economic assessment by the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT). The region's thriving heritage tourism industry, the quality of life for local residents, and the historic and natural resources that make Gettysburg a national icon would all suffer.

National parks are some of our nation's most endangered, irreplaceable resources - Civil War battlefields no less so than wild places such as Yellowstone or the Everglades. Sadly, due to their locations near growing population centers, many battlefields are especially vulnerable to inappropriate development. Today, the same landscapes upon which our nation was formed and tested are being consumed by fast-food restaurants, strip malls, and other forms of suburban sprawl. Nearly 20 percent of our historic Civil War battlefields already have been paved over.

When the Crossroads casino was first proposed, our primary concern was that it would damage the countryside that gives the Gettysburg battlefield meaning and character, and encourage more of the growth that is eating away at the park's edges. What has since been revealed is just how devastating the casino would be to the economy of the Gettysburg region.

During the April 7 hearing before the Gaming Control Board, economist Michael Siegel, who prepared an economic assessment of the casinos for the CWPT, seriously undermined the rosy picture investors have predicted for Gettysburg. Siegel testified that Gettysburg is one of the areas in Pennsylvania that would be most vulnerable to the adverse effects of a large casino.

His report takes issue with Chance Enterprises' reliance on Vicksburg, Miss. - a gambling hot spot with a Civil War past - as a positive model of how a casino might affect Gettysburg. In fact, in 1994, after the first year the casinos were open, visitation to Vicksburg National Military Park fell 21 percent. Since then, visitation rates have struggled back to pre-casino levels. Before the casinos opened, Vicksburg's visitation had been growing at about 5 percent a year.

In Warren County, where Vicksburg is situated, non-manufacturing wage and salary employment fell by several hundred jobs following the opening of four casinos. There was a slight increase after 1997, but another decline in 2000. These jobs and visitation figures strongly suggest that tens of millions of dollars of economic activity were diverted from Vicksburg-area businesses to its casinos.

Like casinos, Civil War battles always had their winners and losers, but ultimately all Americans won. Our nation's founding principles of democracy and freedom were strengthened, and it is a blessing that we can still share those battlefields with our children. Yet, if this casino goes forward, we all stand to lose.

Jim Lighthizer is president of the Civil War Preservation Trust. Tom Kiernan is president of the National Parks Conservation Association. Contact the writers at
jlighthizer@civilwar.org and tkiernan@npca.org.

Thanks, Jim and Tom. This is very well said. Unlike the fabrications and empty promises made by David Levan, Barbara and Jeff Ernico, and the rest of the out of town investors behind Crossroads Casino, what Tom and Jim have written is the unvarnished truth.


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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think maybe you want to look at the Vicksburg battlefield visitation stats for yourself instead of relying on individuals who cherry pick through them to find data that supports their cause. I once blindly believed what people like Siegel and Miller were saying because I desperately wanted it to be true. If you look at the NPS yearly battlefield visitation statistics for Vicksburg you will see that average yearly visitation in the 12 years with casinos is 13% higher than it was in the 12 years prior even with last year's dismal numbers from Dennis and Katrina.

GettysBLOG said...

Statistics are funny. A 13% increase is nowhere near what would have been without the casino. In the years prior to the casino going in the visitation was increasing between 25-40% per year.

13% is a horrible showing for a major Civil War Battlefield Park to be cumulative over 12 years?

Visitors have been polled here at Gettysburg several times, and they have overwhelmingly declared they would never return if there were gambling.

What Next said...

I agree with most all of what Jim and Tom have to say however, as a resident of Gettysburg I can no longer call this town a family-friendly place. We moved here five years ago from NY after falling inlove with the town, its history and its reenactors. In this short period of time we have seen not just the threat of the proposed casino but the annual increase in the biker population that takes over Gettysburg the moment the weather is nice and, does not let up until winter arrives. We have found that it is impossible to enjoy a street fair due to the noice. On Bike Week this month we intentionally left town, upon our return we were informed that the bikers are no longer staying on Steinwehr Ave. and the center of town but, they have started to come into our quiet family oriented neighborhood, at all hours of the day and night. We were also told of the insidents with the women exposing their breats. It is Mr. LeVan that we have to thank for this as well.

Steinwehr Ave. has gone from a quaint little street full of reenactors and an assortment of little shops to a tacky strip where, but for a couple of shops, every single store sells the same garbage of T-shirts and fake bullets.

The reenactors seem to be fading as well. On any given day we could walk into O'Rorke's and find an assortment of reenactors at the bar, now, we can't recall when we last saw one. In their place we now see bikers.

The ghost tours are reproducing faster than bunnies. It seems that all you need to set up business is a folding table and chair, and for added decor, and inflatable ghost and dancing skeleton.

I no longer walk or shop Steinwehr Ave. It saddens me that I have to leave my home for peace and quiet whenever Mr. LeVan organizes an event for his biker clientel. Why is it that we, the tax paying residents of this town, don't have a say about these events? And now I am stressed on a daily basis at the prospect of a casino.

So much for our dream of living in a quaint, family-friendly, historical town.