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 Posted: Tue Aug 17th, 2010 06:09 pm
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Michael F. Blake
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Civil War preservation group backs Gettysburg casino

By Evan Haning, August 17, 2010

Proponents of a project to convert Gettysburg's Eisenhower Conference Center into a gambling casino received new support from a surprising corner -- the Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association.

The GBPA, which calls itself the nation's oldest Civil War preservation group, said on Monday the Mason Dixon Resort & Casino project would help the local economy.

"Preservation does not exist in a vacuum. Our local preservation work cannot thrive absent a local economy that helps induce and support it," writes Brendan Synnamon, GBPA president.

No Casino Gettysburg spokeswoman Susan Star Paddock strongly disagrees.

"The GBPA's reference to this debate as a 'local issue' is tragically out of step with the way most Americans view the Gettysburg battlefield."

The American Legion has joined local opponents of the project, calling the casino proposal "a national disgrace."

Casino supporters say the resort's location one-half mile from Gettysburg National Military Park presents no threat to the historical significance of the field where 172,000 Union and Confederate troops fought and nearly 8,000 died.

But American Legion National Commander Clarence E. Hill sees it differently.

"The battlefield actually encompassed a greater area than is currently designated as a military historical site. In order to show the proper respect, we believe that something as frivolous as a casino should be much more than a half a mile away," Hill said.

Pulitzer Prize winning historian James McPherson agrees that the GBPA is mistaken in saying its site is "well south of the battlefield."

"The proposed site of the casino lies athwart the advance of Union cavalry toward what became known as South Cavalry Field, which saw substantial fighting on the afternoon of July 3, 1863," McPherson explains. "This ground is as hallowed as any other part of the Gettysburg battlefield."

Local businesses are split on how the casino would affect their community.

Supporters point to the $221,124,306 in gaming revenues collected by Pennsylvania in 2009 and believe a casino would create new jobs and bring more visitors to the battlefield.

Opponents worry that restaurant jobs will be lost and that the gambling resort will lure bed and breakfast customers away from town. They also say that the promise of local revenue increases from gambling often fails to appear. As for drawing new visitors to the battlefield, that apparently did not happen when casinos came to Vicksburg. The National Park Service reports visitation has remained static.

(Copyright 2010 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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