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Proposal for Casino Near Historic Battlefield Creates Controversy


The site of one of the most famous battles in U.S. history is now the focus of another conflict -- over a casino.

This is Gettysburg, in the southern part of the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. A major battle in the American Civil War was fought here nearly 150 years ago. That war lasted from 1861 to 1865.

The battle of Gettysburg was the bloodiest ever fought in the United States. It is viewed by many as a turning point of the Civil War, setting the stage for the Union Army's victory two years later over the Confederate rebellion.

The battlefield is now a national park that receives more than two million visitors each year from all over the world. But some say that the area needs to have more appeal to tourists who are not interested in Civil War history.

“You have to have the entertainment value,” says local Bill Synnamon. “Gettysburg, after nine o'clock, if you don't go have a beer, you're done. There's absolutely nothing in town for those people.”

That's why Gettysburg businessmen have proposed building a casino three kilometers from the battlefield. But the idea of gambling near such an important American landmark bothers many residents, such as Jim Lighthizer. “The idea of putting a gambling emporium next to one of America's sacred sites is ludicrous.“

David LeVan leads a group of investors pushing for the casino. He says he did not expect this level of resistance to the project, which he thinks will bring more money and jobs to Gettysburg. “I thought the positive economic benefits warranted taking it on. But I certainly regret how divisive this issue has become to the community.”

Gambling was recently legalized in the state of Pennsylvania, but that hasn't done much to deter the opposition of Civil War appreciators to the casino plan.

One historic re-enactor told us, “We want people to come to Gettysburg for what is there, their heritage, their history, not to come and put money in a slot machine.

Many tourists are also against the proposal. “Because I mean this is a historic place and putting something there that would trash the history and stuff. It's just, it shouldn't belong here at all,” said one visitor.

A bill blocking the casino's construction is currently in the Pennsylvania legislature. But with the state senate adjourned for the summer, this is one battle that may continue for quite a long time.