Gettysburg Casino: Start the Drum-roll, Please

April 8, 2011

At this point, a drum-roll would not be out of place.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board just announced that its agenda for its April 14th meeting will include “consideration” of the sole available Category 3 license to operate a slot machine casino at a resort hotel.

Interestingly, this is coming on the heels of a March 21 summit meeting in Philadelphia for casino operators, racing executives, legislators, regulators, and other industry-related professionals. Some of the casino group said the state might want to step back and catch its breath before licensing any new casinos.

Very interesting, indeed.

Well, whether one is for or against the idea of casinos at any of the four sites contending for the license, it will be nice to have the decision finally over with. The decision was supposed to have come several months ago, but the board was reputedly not able to come to a consensus. And then there were some members whose terms were up and some wanted to wait for the new board to make the final decision. Never mind that the extensive and passionate public hearings were held in front of the old board.

So, the four outfits trying for the license are:

•    Mason-Dixon Resorts, LP, to be located at the Eisenhower Hotel, Conference Center and Resort in Cumberland Township, near Gettysburg in Adams County;

•    Woodlands Fayette, LLC, to be located at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, Wharton Township, Fayette County;

•    Penn Harris Gaming, LP, to be located at the Park Inn Harrisburg West, Hampden Township, Cumberland County; and

•    Bushkill Group, Inc., to be located at the Fernwood Hotel and Resort, Middle Smithfield Township, Monroe County.

The proposal for the casino near Gettysburg has gotten the most ink, because it will be located about a mile south of the Gettysburg National Military Park, 6,000 acres of what Abraham Lincoln, no less, called “hallowed ground.”

Of course it is hallowed ground, but the battle actually took place over 15,000 acres of area, including what is now my neighborhood. My septic tank is in hallowed ground, if you want to take things to their logical extreme.

At least one poll that was done by a local pundit said that an overwhelming number of local residents were in favor of the casino. Lots of anti-casino people questioned the methodology of that poll, and pooh-poohed the results.

Just today, the Civil War Trust, a national advocacy group, released results of a poll it had commissioned that said that two-thirds of Pennsylvanians oppose the plans for a casino.

The pro-casino folks think having it in Gettysburg would do wonders for employment and the community would thrive, etc.

Opponents argue that the “good” jobs would be mostly marginal, that gambling brings more ills that are hardly worth the money they do bring in, and in any case, as the Civil War Trust said in its prepared statement today, “such a Gettysburg casino would be an embarrassment to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

Personally, I don’t like casinos. I think that despite all the glitz and glitter, they are nothing more than yet another tax on the people who can least afford it, and enrich people who already have plenty of money.

Gettysburg businessman David LeVan and former state legislator Joseph Lashinger Jr. are the public face of the effort to bring the casino to the town made famous by the battle. They want to turn the unsuccessful (LeVan himself told the board that the hotel was only seeing about 30 percent occupancy) Eisenhower Inn & Conference Center to a gaming resort with 600 slot machines and 50 table games. For all I know, there will be valet parking for bankruptcy attorneys as well.

Sorry. I just made that last part up.

In the midst of all this, the news out of Philadelphia brought me up short. People who are part of the gambling industry suggesting that maybe, just maybe, we already have enough casinos where ordinary citizens can go have fun losing money in a sour economy?

Put your affairs in order, because this must be the end of the world. Jesus will be here at any moment.

At that conference, it was reported that Pennsylvania’s gambling industry has hammered the casino industry in Atlantic City, and that Pa. could surpass AC in terms of gaming revenues sometime next year.

News sources are reporting that the 10 casinos in the Keystone State took in roughly $2.5 billion last year, compared to the $3.6 billion raked in by 11 AC casinos in the same period.

This is where the “saturation” part comes in. Among the items discussed by the casino operators etc., was whether Philadelphia should get a second casino and how many more casinos the state should have, with neighboring Ohio set to have new casinos soon.

And not just Ohio. The Associated Press reported on March 24 that Delaware’s equivalent to Pennsylvania’s Gaming Control Board voted to table an effort to allow two more casinos in the state. The argument given by opponents is that the gambling market in the region is already saturated.

Maryland already has slots casinos, and they have begun pushing to be allowed to add table games.

One of the investment bankers, at the Philly meeting, suggested that Pennsylvania might just be wiser putting money into its existing casinos, rather than approving new ones.

I hope the Pennsylvania Gaming Board was paying attention in Philadelphia. If people within the gaming industry itself are beginning to think that less is more, maybe the gaming board itself should listen. It would be a real shame for investors, dreaming of riches, to back a new casino that never quite lives up to its potential.

© 2011 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.
Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.
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