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Devil’s work near Devil’s Den?

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

Actor Matthew Broderick is against it. So is historian David McCullough. Will anyone speak up for the proposed casino near the Gettysburg battlefield?  In this week’s Centre Square commentary, Chris Satullo gives it a reluctant try.

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I’m a Civil War buff.

Not of the type who does reenactments, during which he’ll only eat with a three-tine fork, because that what’s the boys of the 20th Maine used back in 1863.

But definitely of the type that detours family vacations to the nearest battlefield, where he’ll stand dreamily, map in hand, hearing the tramp of ghostly feet and the thunder of long-ago cannon – while his impatient family hears only the buzz of mosquitoes.

I’m also a guy who prefers his battlefields fully preserved, like Antietam. For my taste, even Gettysburg is littered with too many monumental monstrosities erected by 19th century sentimentality.

Given all that, you’d think I’d be – as many buffs are – dead set against a plan to put a resort casino near the Gettysburg field, about two miles south of Little Round Top

But I’m not sure I am.

Objecting to projects near “sacred ground” is of course a big theme of this summer’s news. But whether it’s a mosque near Ground Zero or a casino near Devil’s Den, I notice that project foes tend to exaggerate both the proximity and the so-called affront.

Our hold on history isn’t that fragile, is it?  This casino – a reuse, actually, of an existing  hotel – would actually be farther from the battleground than, say, Delilah’s strip club is from Independence Hall.  It’s a busy nation; venal stuff is going to get built somewhere near places where great deeds were done. Yes, the sites themselves should be sacred. But can people just expand the zone of protection at will to block some project they’d oppose no matter what.   Isn’t that more like exploitation of sacred ground than protection?

If you’ve ever been to Gettysburg, you know that kitschy commerce creeps right up to the foot of Cemetery Hill.  Even the silly ghost walk I went on during a recent visit – might someone not deem that a tasteless profiting on long-ago sacrifice?

One man’s principle can be another’s matter of taste.

I don’t like casinos, have never gambled. I think they’re a poor excuse for proper tax policy.  But I if don’t like casinos, I have the option to ignore them, to drive on by.  As now proposed, I just don’t see how this Gettysburg casino would be the huge disaster that some claim.


  • Former Detroiter says:

    I work for a municipality northeast of Detroit so live there now. I grew up in Detroit and am old enough to remember when it was a thriving city. Casinos were brought in as the salvation of the city. They have not been. At least one is in bankruptcy and others are laying off. Most workers do not have full time schedules so don’t get benefits. Pay scale still quailifes some for Medicaid and food stamp assistance. Crime, well, don’t get me started. I am not opposed to gambling. I go to Vegas and other places. I also still spend time in Detroit. My family goes back to the French settlers so I know the history and the highs and lows of this city. Detroit was not saved by casinos. And a half mile from sacred ground where relatives that I have from both sides of this conflict, suffered, fought, and died, is repugnant to me.

  • Elaine S says:

    I live in Vicksburg Ms. Our shops dwntown are not boarded up as you are stating a lie based on statistics in 2005 and 2006 right after Katrina! Nobody here in our beautiful Vicksburg have heard anything but great reviews between their visiting our battlefields and shopping downtown visiting historic landmarks and beautiful old colonial homes and yes going to the casinos. Thanks to those casinos we have built outlets a center and more fire depts better schools retirement communities and new homes and condos coming up every day. I have been following the news on your gaming proposal ever since someone slandered our city and our Mayor had to defenmd it. You are a fearmongerer and liar. Your facts are wrong and our city is doing very well and prospering all the time. We have incentives for new business owners if they want to come here and make a living.! If your town is scared of the competition perhaps they need to look at the prices they are charging and get their shops prepared for newer younger and yes a lot of minority tourists will be coming there as well. Michelle Obama has proven that. Do you have a Museum for the Black soldiers that fought and died there in Gettysburg. We do here in our town! Get your facts straight and stop making up defammatory lies about all of us down here. Ya’ll need to get over yourselves!

  • Scott Smelser says:

    Check out the crime index of 4 locations: 2 civil war towns (Vicksburg & Gettysburg), and 2 long time gambling towns (Las Vegas & Atlantic city). Vicksburg is particularly interesting here – as it has both civil war tourism and legalized gaming. How will it compare? Google each town with the word crime rate. Click on the neighborhoodscout.com link for the crime index number of each. Las Vegas, not surprisingly, hits rock bottom with a crime index of ZERO (that is, zero percent of US cities are safer from crime, per capita, than Las vegas). Atlantic City gets its nose just out of the barrel bottom enough to score a 1 (it’s safer than 1% of other US cities). Gettysburg, on the other hand, gets a crime index rate of 60 (safer than 60% of US cities). Now the kicker: What’s the crime index for Vicksburg? Safer than average(like Gettysburg)? Or at the bottom of the barrel (like Vegas & Atlantic City)? Google Vicksburg crime rate, look for the neighborhoodscout link, and you’ll find your answer. Vicksburg got a 2. Right beside its partners in gaming: Vegas/0, Atlantic City/1, Vicksburg/2.
    Gettysburg does not need a casino. We do not need a casino. Nobody needs a casino.

    • Elaine S says:

      well just checked you crime report and it is inaccurate as I checked with a friend of mine and you have had 2 murders there in Gettysburg. this year! You had as many as we had in 2008. Not to mention we have a population of 27000 compared to your pitiful 7500…So add in the current year crime rate comapared to you population and guess what, you will be down to almost zero! That is a fact. Neither of these have 2009 or 2010 on them. considering we have 4 x the population that you have not including over 1/2 million visitors every quarter I would say with 5 casinos our stats compared to yours are on the mark.

  • susan paddock says:

    The objection to the casino is both about sacred ground and economics. Gettysburg’s prime industry, heritage and agriculture tourism, will both be hurt because these consumers, our towns best customers, are offended by casinos. A recent study shows that when casinos were built in Vicksburg heritage tourism dropped 20%. Today, 40% of vicksburg’s downtown is boarded up. So you can say people can ignore the casinos, but our town’s best customers dislike them and smart people listen to their customers. It may make no sense to you but it makes sense to them, and to the people in the film No Casino used as testimony in the PGCB hearing: http://www.civilwar.org/video/our-gettysburg-legacy.html

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