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Hearing set for proposed casino

July 24, 2010|By JENNIFER FITCH

GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- Feedback about a casino proposed in Adams County, Pa., will be accepted at a public hearing scheduled for Aug. 31.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is considering whether to grant a Category 3 resort casino license for Mason-Dixon Resorts LP. The license would allow for up to 600 slot machines and up to 50 table games at the existing Eisenhower Hotel & Conference Center on Emmitsburg Road, four miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Gettysburg native David LeVan and former Penn National Gaming vice president Joseph A. Lashinger Jr. have been guiding the project through the approvals process. They announced in April that Penn National Gaming would develop and manage the resort and gaming operations through a $75 million financial commitment.

Four groups have applied for Pennsylvania's one remaining Category 3 resort casino license, said Richard McGarvey, a spokesman for the gaming control board.

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Other applicants proposed facilities in Cumberland, Monroe and Fayette counties.

"The chairman has been saying we're hoping to have a decision made by the end of the year," McGarvey said, noting the board is under no obligation to approve any of the projects.

In an impact study posted on the gaming control board's website (www.pgcb.state.pa.us), Mason-Dixon Resort & Casino's developers write the facility could provide $37 million in state taxes per year and $3 million in local taxes annually. They also say Pennsylvanians who otherwise would leave the state to gamble in Maryland's proposed facilities or West Virginia could keep their dollars in Pennsylvania.

The impact study estimates 767,000 visits and $83.1 million in gross gaming revenue for the "first stabilized year of operation," assumed to be 2014. The resort and casino would directly employ about 475 full-time staff members, the study states.

In a retort on its website, the No Casino Gettysburg group (http://nocasinogettysburg.org) argues the casino would take in more revenue from Adams County residents than it would pay out in taxes and wages. It also talks about the impact of "social costs and lost heritage tourism revenues."

Cinda Waldbuesser of the National Parks Conservation Association said the casino would be too close to battlefields.

"We're concerned with locating a casino a half-mile from Gettysburg National Military Park," Waldbuesser said.

The town now is designed to be family-friendly, she said.

Gettysburg "draws visitors looking for that type of entertainment, and Gettysburg National Military Park is a sacred place where many, many people lost their lives," Waldbuesser said.

She said park visitors spent $91 million at local businesses in 2008, the latest year for which statistics are available. However, Tommy Gilbert of Pro Casino Adams County said the community needs the jobs and other economic benefits of a casino.

Only 45 percent of Adams County's property owners pay real estate taxes, since the parks, schools and religious organizations are exempt, said Gilbert, a small business owner.

"We need the revenue," he said.

Gettysburg lost many attractions such as private museums, and LeVan already has helped offset those losses with some of his other business projects, Gilbert said. LeVan is an honest man who plays by the rules, he said.

"This is an Adams County matter," Gilbert said. "The opposition has drawn a lot of flack from the outside."

The first of the two Category 3 licenses was awarded to Valley Forge (Pa.) Resort Casino on April 8, 2009, the gaming control board's website stated. McGarvey said the casino hasn't opened because of a court case.

Those wishing to speak at the hearing and provide input regarding the Mason-Dixon Resort & Casino proposal must register by Aug. 26 at noon on the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board's website. They also can call board secretary Mickey Kane at 717-346-8300 to register.

The hearing will begin at 10 a.m. at the Comfort Suites on Baltimore Pike in Cumberland Township, Adams County, according to a press release.

Written testimony also will be accepted under provisions explained at http://www.pgcb.state.pa.us.

McGarvey said any interested individual can make comments during the hearing or submit them in writing.

"For or against the project, we want to hear what people have to say about these projects in their communities," he said.

Additional hearings will be held in Harrisburg, Pa., later in the year before the decision is made, McGarvey said.

Public hearing



What: Public hearing about a casino proposed at the Eisenhower Hotel & Conference Center on Emmitsburg Road, four miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

When: Tuesday, Aug. 31, 10 a.m.

Where: Comfort Suites, Baltimore Pike in Cumberland Township, Adams County, Pa.

Those wishing to provide input regarding the Mason-Dixon Resort & Casino proposal must register by Aug. 26 at noon on the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board's website (http://www.pgcb.state.pa.us). They also can call board secretary Mickey Kane at 717-346-8300 to register.

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