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Home >> Life
UPDATED: 11:11, August 16, 2005
Casino plan horrifies Gettysburg
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Beneath the surface Gettysburg is engaged in its fiercest battle since the smoke cleared on the morning of July 4 1863 and the shocked and bewildered townspeople were greeted by the apocalyptic sight of more than 50,000 dead and injured men strewn across their fields.

A group of developers led by a prominent local businessman are proposing to build a 200-room hotel and casino within a cannon ball shot of the historic battlefield in an attempt to attract a very different kind of visitor to the town - the sort who will spend every waking hour dropping quarters into the 3,000 planned slot machines.

Ranged against the developers is a disparate band of residents, historians, traders and re-enactors, determined to stop what they see as the attempt to desecrate sacred ground.

The somewhat reluctant leader of the No Casino Gettysburg group is Susan Star Paddock, a mild-mannered psychologist and resident.

"Something profoundly important for the United States and American history occurred here," she said standing near to a monument erected on the spot where Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg address.

"This whole area is a classroom on that history. Lincoln said that people can never forget what happened here, and this is a hard-working community dedicated to preserving history and hosting people who want to learn about that history. The suggestion that you should bring into that community a gambling casino that exploits the ignorant is deeply offensive."

Paddock's ire is directed against the businessmen, but also Pennsylvania's politicians, who passed a law last year that would permit as many as 61,000 slot machines in the state in an effort to reduce homeowners' property taxes.

It is understandable why the aptly named Chance Enterprises, the casino developers, picked Gettysburg. The town attracts an estimated two million visitors a year, drawn to the scene of the largest battle in north American history where victory for the Union army is generally acknowledged to have turned the tide of the civil war against the Confederates.

The lead investor is David LeVan, a local businessman who owns Battlefield Harley Davidson, motorcycle dealership in the town, and has been a generous contributor to local institutions. His involvement has, in the words of one commentator, caused "anguish" in the local community.

Battlefield Harley Davidson referred callers to John Brabender, a public relations executive in Pittsburgh. He did not return calls last week. But in the past Chance Enterprises has insisted that the casino will be tastefully done and not built within sight of the battlefield. Backers also say it would create as many as 800 jobs and add US$ 10 million to the local tax base as well as ploughing money back into battlefield preservation. They claim on their website that a majority of local people support the casino.

Inside Gettysburg Antiques on York Street it is possible to buy anything from an original civil war musket ball salvaged from the battlefield to an oil painting of Confederate General Ambrose Hill.

"I'm a straight-talking kind of person," said the shop's owner, DiAnne Smith, 60, who has run an antiques store in Gettysburg for more than 25 years. "If I thought that a casino would be good for the town I would say so, but I know for a fact it won't."

But at the moment, neither side appears willing to compromise, and the second battle of Gettysburg looks set to run and run.

Source: China Daily

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