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Back to the Battle

OK, it's time to talk about Gettysburg again.

Back to the Battle

OK, it’s time to talk about Gettysburg again. This will be the third time my little amalgamation of mirth and merriment broaches the bombastic brainstorming over baccarat and Bally by the battlefield.

Sorry. My alliteration blocker was turned off.

Anyway, as you probably know, Gettysburg businessman David LeVan wants a license to place a small resort casino at the Eisenhower Hotel and Conference Center, which is 5.6 miles from the historic battlefield, as the Google Map flies. A resort-class license in Pennsylvania authorizes up to 600 slot machines and 50 table games, to be added to an existing hotel, with play restricted to hotel guests and ghosts of Confederate soldiers. (OK, just the guests.)

LeVan has Penn National Gaming, which will soon operate every casino in America, on board to develop and manage the casino if he gets the license.

Why am I writing about this again? No, it’s not because I have more wisecracks about putting cannons out front to hold off the historians, or putting in food-and-beverage outlets like Devil’s Den Desserts. (Although I do, in fact, have more wisecracks. Let’s see how the column goes.)

I bring up this subject again because of the latest national story to come out of this effort to transform the Eisenhower into what would be called the Mason Dixon Resort & Casino. And in this latest squabble, I’m squarely on LeVan’s side. Really, me and him are like this. (You can’t see, but my fingers are interlocked. I’m unlocking them now, because it’s really hard to type that way.)

The Civil War Preservation Trust, a group originally formed to make sure historic Civil War battlefields don’t end up as Walmarts, has placed the Gettysburg battlefield at the top of its “endangered list” of national war memorials because of the casino plan. The president of the trust, James Lighthizer, wrote the following “statement to Americans” with the purpose of making them afraid:

“All across the country, our nation’s irreplaceable battlefields-these tangible links to our shared history-are threatened by inappropriate development, misguided public policy and…” Well, it’s such a wind-bag statement from there that I can’t repeat it, because you’ll fall asleep. However, it ends by pointing to Gettysburg as evidence that battlefields “are being paved over in favor of shopping malls, housing tracts and even
gambling casinos.”

Now, just a minute, Mr. Lighthizer. May I call you “Jim?”

Now “Jim,” I’ve got no horse in this race, so I can be totally honest with you. I don’t know if I like the Mason Dixon idea or not-it seems to me that they’ll have to raze the whole hotel and rebuild it to make the Eisenhower into a decent-enough joint to be called a “resort,” much less add a casino. But it’s not going to “pave over” the Gettysburg battlefield.

Not only would that be too expensive, it would invite a pitchfork-wielding mob and make a lot of gun-wielding ghosts really mad. And besides, they would have to travel five miles, with all that paving equipment, to even reach the battlefield.

Sure, they say some historic sites are closer to the hotel, but even if the site of some Civil War latrine is right next to the Eisenhower parking lot, it’s still not going to be touched by the casino. And to use the casino plan to put Gettysburg at the top of your “endangered site” list? The only thing endangered by this plan is anyone who might want to play video poker, with what surely will be the worst pay tables on the planet.

People visiting the battlefield won’t even notice this place. It’s not like it’s going to have neon signs with motion animation of General Meade putting his sword into General Lee. (It would move sort of like Vegas Vic used to move his thumb to point toward the Frontier in Downtown Las Vegas.) The slot club isn’t going to sponsor promotional digs for treasure at the battlefield. There will be no cocktail waitresses dressed in skimpy rebel outfits. (Although God knows, there should be.)

The point is that no one’s building anything that disrespects the heritage of Gettysburg. Just having a casino in the vicinity is not disrespectful. What do you think Civil War soldiers did in the evenings during the Battle of Gettysburg? They probably gambled.

Don’t worry, “Jim.” Mason Dixon will not harm the Gettysburg heritage that is exemplified so reverently by the Eisenhower Hotel’s current slogan:

“Make us your Gettysburg address!”

Hey, some of this stuff, I can’t make up.

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.  

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