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A casino near the Battle of Gettysburg site? Don’t bet on it yet

Tourists Sandy and Brian Augustine of East Freedom, Pa., read about Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg National Military Park on Monday in Gettysburg, Pa. Some preservationists worry that a plan to build a casino near the park, if successful, would cheapen the sacrifice of the soldiers who died in the 1863 Civil War battle and ruin the area's wholesome reputation that draws tourists. (AP Photo/Marc Levy)

Tourists Sandy and Brian Augustine of East Freedom, Pa., read about Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg National Military Park on Monday in Gettysburg, Pa. Some preservationists worry that a plan to build a casino near the park, if successful, would cheapen the sacrifice of the soldiers who died in the 1863 Civil War battle and ruin the area's wholesome reputation that draws tourists. (AP Photo/Marc Levy)

By Tom Fetters

Nearly 150 years after the Battle of Gettysburg, another conflict is taking place in the same area — this one pitting a casino developer against opponents who claim the proposed $75 million project to revamp a hotel and conference center less than a mile from the Gettysburg National Military Park would tarnish the historic battlefield’s reputation.

And judging from an Associated Press account, the arguments this week before the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board provided quite a spectacle.

For his part, developer David Le Van made a pitch with a video presentation that he introduced and narrated. He argued that his Mason Dixon Resort & Casino would boost tourism for Gettysburg as similar projects did for the Civil War tourist town of Vicksburg, Miss.

“Mason Dixon can empower the region and re-energize a struggling county by creating good jobs and new opportunities to attract tourists,” the AP quoted Le Van as saying in the presentation.

Opponents of the project fired back with a slice of Hollywood — a video showing actors Sam Waterston and Matthew Broderick, filmmaker Ken Burns and author David McCullough — and some local residents arguing that approving the casino would be shirking America’s duty to protect the historic battlefield.

“We are asking you to please deny this application, to make your legacy saving Gettysburg,” Susan Starr Paddock of No Casino Gettysburg was quoted as saying.

Who will prevail in this latest Battle of Gettysburg? In 2006, the AP account notes, Le Van’s attempt to get a Gettysburg-area casino license was rejected.

But that was before the Great Recession.

The board may decide this time that trying to bring in more tourist dollars trumps opponents’ arguments.

Tom Fetters is a copy editor at The Daily Reporter. He’s not a big fan of video presentations.

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