(Washington, D.C.) - Filmmaker Ken Burns, author David McCullough, actors Sam Waterston, Matthew Broderick, Stephen Lang, Medal of Honor recipient Paul W. Bucha, President Eisenhower’s granddaughter Susan Eisenhower and even a haunting score by Oscar-winning composer John Williams made appearances via video at the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) hearing this morning in Gettysburg.
Susan Star Paddock, chair of the grassroots group No Casino Gettysburg, turned the Comfort Suites conference room in Gettysburg into a movie theatre for her 10-minute testimony. The professional quality video, prepared entirely by volunteers, is a plea to the PGCB to deny a license for a casino just ½ mile from the boundary of the Gettysburg National Military Park.
“People wonder how a small town non-profit could persuade celebrities to appear free in this.” Paddock said. “These significant individuals were simply asked. It is Gettysburg itself, and the reverence America feels for this hallowed ground that persuaded them to join our cause.”
The 9.5 minute video also features Paddock and four local residents of Gettysburg, including Charles McElhose III, a 14-year-old Civil War reenactor. No Casino Gettysburg is fighting local developer David LeVan who led the push for a casino gambling license in 2005 but was defeated in 2006. This time, he has teamed with Penn National and a casino developer Joseph Lashinger Jr. of Florida and Penn National to pursue a “resort casino” license at the site of the current Eisenhower Inn, less than 3000 feet from the Gettysburg National Military Park, and about 1 mile from the Eisenhower National Historic Site. The resort sits directly on the national scenic byway “Journey Through Hallowed Ground,” just minutes from locations of civil war carnage such as Pickett’s Charge.
The PGCB started their hearing this morning to review local opinion. The hearing is the largest and most contentious in Pennsylvania gaming history, with more than 350 individuals and 29 community groups scheduled to speak. Just like the mosque situation in New York City, this argument over how to treat the context of sacred ground has sharply divided the local area residents and has created a stir nationally. The Gettysburg area casino, called “a national disgrace” by the American Legion, is also opposed by 275 historians, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Civil War Preservation Trust, and Preservation Pennsylvania.