- Associated Press - Monday, August 23, 2010

GETTYSBURG, Pa. | The plan to build a new casino a short distance from the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War has sparked support and opposition from locals and out-of-towners.

Last week, the Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association announced its support for the proposal to turn an existing hotel and conference center into a casino.

That came just days after the national head of the American Legion declared the plan “a national disgrace” — much to the dismay of local Legion officials who weren’t consulted before the announcement.

The dispute involves a local developer’s proposal to turn the Eisenhower Hotel & Conference Center, a complex about a half-mile from the battlefield, into a “resort casino” with 600 slot machines and 50 gaming tables. The Gettysburg proposal is vying with three others for a state gaming license.

The preservation group supported the casino plan, saying it would be on the site of an existing development and wouldn’t interfere with battlefield’s boundaries. Meanwhile, it would provide much-needed economic development.

“The Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association would not support a commercial project that would use or impinge upon the battlefield,” association President Brendan Synnamon said.

Critics have suggested the association’s support for the plan is a result of contributions and support from casino developer David LeVan, but Mr. Synnamon denied any conflict of interest in an interview with the Patriot-News of Harrisburg.

Critics and supporters of the casino plan have been reacting to pronouncements from others about the proposal’s merit.

The supervisors of Cumberland Township, where the casino would be located, support the plan. So, too, do the Adams County Commissioners and the local chamber of commerce.

American Legion National Commander Clarence E. Hill doesn’t like the plan, saying it’s too close to the scene of “substantial fighting” and hypothesizing that soldiers could be buried on the site in unmarked graves.

The head of Gettysburg American Legion Post 202 said the locals weren’t consulted.

“Personally, he has no idea what he’s talking about,” Richard Baumgardner, the commander of the Gettysburg Post, told the Gettysburg Times. He also noted that his post is officially neutral on the subject.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has scheduled a hearing on the Gettysburg proposal Aug. 31.

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