GETTYSBURG, Pa. – A divisive plan to build a casino near the site of the Civil War’s Battle of Gettysburg is in the mold of many other communities that have successfully meshed gambling with historical tourist destinations, the developer told state regulators Tuesday.
With opponents rallying around the cry of “Save Gettysburg,” developer David LeVan pitched his plan for the Mason Dixon Resort & Casino as a well-worn concept in places such as Vicksburg, Miss., and Deadwood, S.D., that can bring tourists, investment and tax revenue to the Gettysburg area.
“Mason Dixon can empower the region and re-energize a struggling county,” LeVan told the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
The gaming board, which is considering Mason Dixon’s application to build the casino, was listening to comments from casino principals, supporters and opponents at a public meeting near Gettysburg National Military Park.
With more than 390 people registered to speak, the hearing could spill into Wednesday. Mason Dixon is competing with three other groups for a state casino license.
Signs reading “No Casino” and “Pro Casino” dot windows throughout the quaint streets of Gettysburg, which attaracts more than a million tourists each year for shopping, eating and lodging. The casino is proposed on an existing hotel and conference center site within a mile of the park’s southern boundary.
Opponents say a casino will cheapen the reputation that draws tourists to Gettysburg, where 160,000 Union and Confederate soldiers fought for three days in summer 1863 — about 50,000 of them killed, wounded or captured in the bloodiest battle North America has ever seen.
The soldiers’ sacrifice, opponents say, was intended to build a country, not a casino.
A previous attempt by LeVan to win a Gettysburg-area casino license was rejected in 2006 amid a local outcry.
LeVan is a former Conrail Inc. chairman and well-known local philanthropist and preservationist who lives across the street from the park’s museum and visitors center.