Opposition to a proposed casino 1/2 mile from the Gettysburg NMP
This is a summary of a Feb 8, 2012 hearing by the PA House Gaming Oversight Committee where testimony was taken from both supporters and those who oppose HB 2082 aka the ”Buffer Bill”. This proposed legislation seeks to establish a “Zone of Respect” i.e., a 10-mile buffer around the Gettysburg National Military Park and the Flight 93 Memorial at Shanksville, PA. within the boundaries of which a casino would be prohibited from locating.
First to testify was Paul Bucha, Medal of Honor winner, historian, and West Point professor. Today he spoke in his role as a real estate developer in support of the buffer. He stated that there are some places where you simply don’t go with certain kinds of projects: that Gettysburg is such a place, and a casino is such a project. He further stated that this effort to protect these places from ongoing threats is about something with far-reaching scope and meaning. I believe he was talking about how we present ourselves as a society; what do we value, how do we show respect, and how do we safeguard and pass onprecious and important parts of our legacy to future generations?
Brendan Synnamon was next, declaring that he was speaking as a private citizen, not as an officer of GBPA.(Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association). He then commenced to reference GBPA throughout his testimony along with constant use of the pronoun “we”. He presented Vicksburg as one shining example of a historic community living in harmony with casinos. This was later refuted during Mindy Crawford’s testimony (Mindy is Executive Director of Preservation PA) with statistics confirming that just the opposite was true (since casinos arrived on the scene, so have reduced numbers at the Battlefield, reduced traffic in town, and 40% of shops shuttered.) Another example Synnamon thought would convince legislators about the synergy between casinos and history was to describe an individual costumed as one of our founding fathers flanked by a couple of leggy showgirls and hawking the Sugarhouse Casino in Philadelphia. Rep.John Lawrence remarked that he considered it "a shame",
Mindy Crawford testified next, acknowledging that Preservation PA had been drawn into this fracas as the result of an overwhelming number of calls from Pennsylvanians opposed to a casino in Gettysburg and pleading for the organization to get involved. Her description of the Vicksburg experience with casinos, as reported above, was compelling.
Tommy Gilbert ‘s brief statement was rapidly delivered and read directly from his prepared text; the most notable content of which was his declaration that the Buffer Bill was both “unconstitutional” and “unconscionable”on grounds that if it were passed, state law could then trump local officials’ decisions.
Numerous questions and comments were presented by Committee members during and after testimony. Synnamon was asked if he would support building a casino on land directly abutting or across the street from the National Military Park. His answer was a resounding “YES”. For those of you who aren’t aware, this individual is President of GBPA, the only preservation organization in the nation to be in favor of and fight vociferously for a casino to open in Gettysburg ½ mile from the National Military Park). Synnamon was also asked if David LeVan had ever given the organization money in order to garner support. The reply was "He's been very generous to us, but has not given it in exchange for our support."
A Committee member took time to correct the opposition's mistaken belief that HB2082 wold unconstitutionally grant the state power to supersede local decisions. He explained that this precedent had already been set when the state overturned local zoning of a Philadelphia neighborhood in favor of Sugarhouse and despite massive public opposition.
One Committee member expressed concern about traffic, another about the disturbing 24/7 nature of casino operation, and another about how drastically a gambling enterprise overtakes a community’s identity, Rep. Mike Fleck was incredulous that a casino was the only economic development opportunity Adams County leaders could think of. His actual words were “I think the men who shed their blood there paid the ultimate tax bill”. He said that issue, for him, would trump local control. He opined that local officials needed to find more suitable options.