Thursday, May 6, 2010

Casino near Gettysburg

There is a new battle raging around Gettysburg, PA. This time its between the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) and a group called Mason-Dixon Resorts, LLC. The Mason-Dixon Resorts folks want to build a casino about one-half a mile from the battlefield. The project will feature 307 hotel rooms, 600 slot machines, and 50 table games. The complex will also have 2,000 parking spaces. Jim Lighthizer and the people at CWPT are opposed to the project and want to see it defeated like the one they prevented four years ago.

This is another example of battle that historic preservationists wage with developers. Unfortunately sitting in Texas, I lack the proper perspective to evaluate the project. As a historian I want to see the battlefield preserved and protected from commercial encroachment. But the fact is I don't live in Gettysburg or Adams County. I visit the park occasionally and these trips don't include assessment of the local economy and employment rate. Some commercial enterprises are required by park visitors --- hotels and restaurants. After a hot and humid summer day at the park those indoor and outdoor pools sound inviting.

So the issue comes down to the gaming and here is where I have problems. Does the community really need a casino? The smoke filled rooms are hazardous to your health and pocketbook. I find that an establishment where the odds of success are stacked against me is not a place that I would want to frequent.

The casino environment is at odds with the family and educational environment contained at the national park and cemetery. This type of business can have a negative effect on the community. In a scholarly study that appeared in The Review of Economics and Statistics, the researchers found that the rate of crime was 12 percentage points lower in non-casino communities. They note that the first two or three years there is little or no effect, but in the fourth and fifth years most forms of crime begin to increase in casino communities.

So I think I'll place my bets and money with the Civil War Protection Trust

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