Rendell, vet groups opposing Gettysburg casino idea
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HARRISBURG -- Gov. Ed Rendell and officials of some veterans groups have joined the opposition to a plan to put a small casino with slots and table games near the historic Gettysburg battlefield.
Mr. Rendell, who also had been against a previous Gettysburg casino plan in 2006, expressed opposition to the new plan for a resort hotel casino during a visit Wednesday to a senior center.
"I think the historic area is of such a value, and the tourist economy is so important, that it would be inappropriate for it to be there," he said.
He holds that view even though "the main driver [for a casino in Gettysburg] is a good personal friend of mine," referring to Gettysburg motorcycle dealer David LeVan.
Mr. Rendell is a former mayor of Philadelphia, and when the first Gettysburg casino plan was being debated in 2006, he had said, "I wouldn't want a casino two blocks from the Liberty Bell."
But the governor stressed that the decision on where to locate the state's second and last resort hotel casino will be made by the seven-member Gaming Control Board. Gettysburg and three other sites, including Nemacolin Woodlands in Fayette County, are in the running. Even though Mr. Rendell has named three of the board members, he said he doesn't tell them how to award gaming licenses.
James Lighthizer, president of the Civil War Preservation Trust, praised Mr. Rendell "for taking a stance and opposing this controversial project. Tens of thousands of Americans from across the country agree -- Gettysburg is no place for a casino."
Mr. Lighthizer also was pleased about opposition to a Gettysburg casino that was expressed Tuesday at the state Capitol by officials of some veterans groups, including American Legion Director Peter Gaytan, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund President Jan Scruggs and retired National Park Service historian Edwin C. Bearss, a World War II veteran.
They called for "continued protection of the Gettysburg battlefield and the rejection of a controversial proposal that would bring a casino to the doorstep" of the military park.
But not all veterans oppose the casino. In fact, asserted Vietnam War era veteran Richard Kitner, who lives in Adams County, "There are over 9,000 veterans in the county, and the great majority of them support the casino project."
He said unemployment "is at a 25-year high in the county and we need the jobs," about 900 or so, that the proposed Mason-Dixon Resort Casino would bring.
It would be in Cumberland Township, several miles south of the center of Gettysburg and about half a mile south of the southern border of the park. Mr. Kitner lives in that township and likes Mr. LeVan's pledge to give $1 million a year each to the township and the county, if he gets the casino license.
Mr. Kitner said property values have just been reassessed and many people, especially retirees on fixed incomes, are worried about losing their homes due to rising taxes.
First Published September 23, 2010 12:00 am