Volleys traded over proposed Gettysburg slot machine casino
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GETTYSBURG -- The Rev. William Mummert displays religious zeal in his fight against a slot machine casino proposed for a site just outside of this historic town.
"Gambling offers glitz and false promises, but it has an addictive nature and creates a lot more losers than winners," the longtime Baptist pastor told the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board yesterday during a hearing attended by several hundred residents in the Gettysburg College ballroom.
Mr. Mummert, backed up by several Adams County community groups, dozens of residents and a few local politicians, urged the state gaming board not to approve the $300 million Crossroads Gaming Resort & Spa proposed by developer David LeVan for a site along U.S. Route 30, just three miles from the famous Civil War battlefield.
Mr. LeVan, while vastly outnumbered by the casino opponents, put on a strong case for his gaming proposal. He argued that the casino, with 3,000 slot machines, a health spa, restaurants and a 224-room luxury hotel, would add several thousand jobs to the area, provide Gettysburg Borough, Adams County and the state with thousands of additional tax dollars each year and draw thousands of well-heeled gamblers from out of state, including Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia.
The three Adams County commissioners were split in their views on the casino. Republicans Lucy Lott and Glenn Snyder said it wasn't appropriate for "hallowed ground" like Gettysburg, and feared it would raise county costs for traffic control, police, fire personnel, and sewer and water facilities.
Democratic Commissioner Tom Weaver sided with Mr. LeVan, seeing the casino as a way to increase tourism, especially in winter, when visitors to the battlefield fall off.
Gettysburg council President Ted Streeter said council members voted 6-3 to support the casino after Mr. LeVan pledged $1 million a year to help the borough with police, fire and other costs. Casino foes have called that offer "a bribe," but Mr. Streeter denied the charge.
Mr. LeVan, chief executive officer of an investor group called Chance Enterprises, also was bolstered by professional advisers, including Philadelphia architect Ian Cope, Millenium Gaming co-founder William Wortman and financial backers from Morgan Stanley investments, which is willing to raise $200 million for the project.
Millenium, which owns two casinos in Las Vegas and is buying The Meadows in Washington County, would operate the Crossroads casino if it gets a license from the gaming board.
In all, more than 60 people spoke yesterday at the six-hour hearing. It was the first of 16 such sessions that the board will hold over the next six weeks to get comments from developers, local officials, community groups and individuals on the 22 casino applications it has received.
The board, by early next year, is expected to award 14 slots licenses: seven for racetracks, five at stand-alone sites, such as the one in Gettysburg, and two others at resort hotels.
The second casino hearing is set for today in Harrisburg, for testimony on a casino planned for the Penn National Race Course, about 15 miles east of the capital in Dauphin County.
Additional testimony on the Gettysburg casino will be taken tomorrow -- at a session in Harrisburg. So many people on both sides want to comment about the Gettysburg casino that a third day of hearings also had to be added, on May 17.
The gaming board will be in Pittsburgh for three days of hearings. The first two sessions, on April 18-19, will start at 8:30 a.m. at the Omni William Penn Hotel, Downtown, and will focus on the three casino proposals that have been made for the city.
These include Harrah's casino, proposed for Station Square; an Isle of Capri casino, proposed for the lower Hill District in connection with a new arena; and a casino proposed by Detroit businessman Don Barden for the North Shore, just west of the Carnegie Science Center.
The third hearing in Pittsburgh is set for May 10 and will concern a racetrack/casino planned for The Meadows.
More than 230 people have signed up to testify about the Pittsburgh-area casino plans.
First Published April 6, 2006 12:00 am