Gettysburg Casino Plan Propels Civil War Among Veterans

Monday, 25 Oct 2010 01:06 PM

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A proposal to build a casino near the site of the famous Battle of Gettysburg has kindled a civil war that pits veterans against veterans. “Honor is not for sale,” National American Legion Cmdr. Jimmie L. Foster declared today in the escalating modern-day battle between armed service veterans on the national and local levels over whether to permit a casino with a Gettysburg address.

Gettysburg, casino, American Legion, veteransThe Pennsylvania locals contend that they’re not selling honor in supporting a Gettysburg developer’s plan for the casino.

They just want jobs, and the resort and casino a half-mile from the 6,000-acre Gettysburg National Military Park would provide them, counters Rich Kitner, a Vietnam War veteran from Cumberland, near Gettysburg.

Kitner and 50 other members of various veterans organizations, including The American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Amvets, the Disabled American Veterans, and  the Catholic War Veterans, rallied in Cumberland a week ago to support the proposed Mason-Dixon Resort Hotel and Casino, according to a report at post-gazette.com.

"Local veterans overwhelmingly support this project because it will help create jobs, and it is not located on the Gettysburg battlefield," Kitner told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Veterans groups that oppose the proposal should be sympathetic to their needs, says Kitner, saying the casino would provide not only jobs but also tax relief.

The Legion is sympathetic, Foster contends, saying: "We are not 'anti-casino.' We are 'pro-veteran.' We simply believe it should be built farther away from the field that Abraham Lincoln called 'consecrated' ground. There are other locations in the state that want to host the facility. We hope that officials see the importance of protecting the sanctity of that special place in American history."

Foster noted the right to disagree in a free nation, adding, “But there is a misperception among some that because a few local veterans support the casino that The American Legion supports it. Gettysburg was a decisive and major battle in the War Between the States. Those who died there hailed from all the existing states of the Union and Confederacy. Saying that protecting the memory of these heroes is a 'local issue' is like calling the Civil War a 'local disturbance.' We realize that there is a lot of money backing the casino, but honor is not for sale."

Gettysburg, casino, American Legion, veteransAlso opposing the idea of a casino near Gettysburg's hallowed ground  (park's museum and visitor center pictured at right)  are the American Legion Department of Pennsylvania, the Civil War Preservation Trust, Veterans for Gettysburg, Gov. Ed Rendell, and historian Ken Burns, Foster said.

Actually, the Mason-Dixon proposal to revamp the existing Eisenhower Resort Hotel in Cumberland isn’t necessarily the odds-on favorite to snag the state’s second and final resort-casino. Also vying for state approval are the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Fayette County; a Holiday Inn in Mechanicsburg, just west of Harrisburg; and a Poconos resort in northeast Pennsylvania. The other resort/casino will be near the Valley Forge military park west of Philadelphia when it opens, according to the post-gazette.com.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is to convene hearings on the proposals next month and is expected to award the gaming license in December.

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