Gettysburg RV Park & Casino plan ignites modern battle

A story about a proposed RV Park & Casino near the Gettysburg Civil War battlefield in Pennsylvania recently caught my attention.

According to an article written by Reuters reporter Jon Hurdle, plans to build a casino on the edge of America's most famous Civil War battlefield have sparked a modern-day battle that resonates beyond southern Pennsylvania.

Opponents say the project would violate a treasured piece of American history. But those in favor of it argued it will benefit the local economy. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will decide the fate of the proposal before the end of the year.

David LeVan, a local developer who failed in a 2005 bid to build another casino near Gettysburg, wants to convert an existing hotel, situated half a mile from the battlefield where the Union army fought the decisive victory over the Confederacy in 1863, into the Mason-Dixon Resort & Casino, which would be a 70,000-square-foot resort with 50 gaming tables and 600 slot machines. LeVan says the $75 million project would generate 375 jobs and save 100 more in the existing hotel. Citing recent opinion polls, LeVan claims about 60 percent of local people support his plan.

But opponents, who have collected more than 30,000 signatures, say this is a nationwide issue because the battlefield is a "national treasure that belongs to all Americans." Critics also showed a video that included statements from filmmaker Ken Burns, actor Sam Waterston and historian David McCullough. They argued that allowing the casino to go ahead would be the equivalent of building a gaming hall at Arlington National Cemetery or on the site of New York's Twin Towers.

Both sides make valid points. One comment that was most telling was when someone stood up and said the hotel in which they were holding this meeting also sits less than a mile from where Abraham Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address, yet there was no objection to it being built. The real reason for the dissent, she said, was the gambling issue.

My thoughts are these:

One, this is a local issue that should be decided by the local community. But that doesn't mean we can't chime in on the debate.

Two, Although I am personally opposed to gambling, I do not begrudge others who want to pursue that hobby. However, I feel casinos are not the financial windfall to the community they are usually portrayed to be. Sure the principal owner(s) make a profit, but the taxes paid to the local governments eventually amount to a shell game, in my opinion. Furthermore, casinos are very adept at squeezing out other local businesses. At first, it's simply nothing more than people choosing a casino for their entertainment spending rather than, say, a bowling alley or a theater. Eventually, though, casinos will want their customers to never leave the premises, so they will add restaurants, bars, live theaters, bowling alleys and more lodging to their facility.

Three, opponents of this project should not object to the RV park part of the proposal and, indeed, there is nothing to say that anyone is making such an objection. But it should be pointed out that — assuming the RV park is built to a certain standard — the campers it would attract would only be a positive. Such a park would fit in well with the many, many other tourist attractions found near the battlefield.

It's too bad the developer couldn't be content with limiting his project to an RV park alone. But, of course, there is more profit to be made with a casino as part of the project. And, as usual, money is the deciding factor in nearly everything.
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My family (wife and three kids, sometimes the dog) and I have been RV campers since 2007. We own a 2000 Trail-Lite B22 Bantam hybrid, our tow vehicle is a 2006 Trailblazer LT EXT (5.3 V8 with 3.73 Rear Axle Ratio), and our setup includes the Equalizer sway controller. Looking to upgrade the camper in the near future, but until then we get out 2-3 times a month in season.