"Peculiarly distinguished among the advance guard, where all were distinguished, must be recorded . . . Private J. W. Brown, of Company F, First Georgia Regiment, who, upon hearing the order to fall back, exclaimed, 'I will give them one more shot before I leave,' and while ramming down his twenty-ninth cartridge fell dead at his post." - General Henry R. Jackson in his report of the Battle of Greenbrier River.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Gettysburg Casino

The Civil War Preservation Trust has just issued a news release on a new study showing the adverse impact of the proposed Mason-Dixon Casino at Gettysburg. 

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Examination discloses that casino would have “serious, substantial and sustained adverse impacts” to the Gettysburg Battlefield and surrounding community

(Gettysburg, Pa.) – Today a coalition of preservation groups working with local business owners involved in Businesses Against the Casino released an independent assessment of the potential impacts of gaming on Gettysburg and Adams County. The report, Impacts of the Proposed Mason-Dixon Casino on the Gettysburg Area – A Realistic Assessment, found that the application for a resort casino license near Gettysburg greatly exaggerates the economic impact of the proposal and ignores the “serious, substantial and sustained adverse impacts” it poses for existing businesses and the battlefield.

The report was commissioned by the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT), National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), National Trust for Historic Preservation and Preservation Pennsylvania on behalf of the Adams County organization Businesses Against the Casino. Author Michael Siegel of Public and Environmental Finance Associates of Washington, D.C., has more than 30 years experience in public and environmental finance and impact analysis.

“Appropriate scrutiny shows the analysis performed by Mason-Dixon in support of its application to be insufficient and amateurish,” said CWPT president James Lighthizer. “The document mentions no potential impacts on the Borough of Gettysburg — where existing businesses are at ground zero for negative fallout — despite explicit requirements for such consideration in application materials.”

“Gettysburg National Military Park is already an economic engine for the surrounding communities,” said Cinda Waldbuesser, NPCA Pennsylvania senior program manager. “This independent analysis shows that Mason Dixon’s promises of economic gain are exaggerated and ignore the impacts that the casino will have on the park. Licensing a casino so close to the battlefield would put a known economic engine at risk in favor of an unknown venture.”

Based on the many important findings revealed in A Realistic Assessment, Charles McElhose, a local business owner and a spokesman for Businesses Against the Casino, believes it should be required reading for every business owner and local resident.

“Claims made about a project of this scale must be able to withstand close examination,” said McElhose. “Many things were unaccounted for, or perhaps purposefully omitted, in the Mason-Dixon impact report. This new analysis is crucial to obtaining a full understanding of the impacts this casino will have on our community. It stands to affect the bottom line of every local business — especially those serving heritage tourists, but, likewise, the companies that provide products and services to those businesses. There is very real potential for a “snowball effect” that could devastate our economy.”

Key findings of A Realistic Assessment include:


Casino proponents claim the facility will bring hundreds of good jobs to the community. By comparing apples to oranges, the Local Impact Report confidently announces that the facility will create approximately 900 “net new jobs” for Adams County. That figure, however, is a confused and deceptive jumble of “full-time equivalent,” full- and part-time jobs to which further ancillary positions were also added, based on an inappropriate, misleading, and undocumented statistical multiplier. This causes the LIR’s projection of jobs to be unreliable and overstated.

The LIR’s economic analysis does not mention the actual number of on-site jobs it has assumed to be at the proposed casino, instead citing a figure of 375 full-time equivalent jobs. As A Realistic Assessment documents, this is actually a mix of 1,087 full and part-time jobs. Realizing that the average salary is $17,061 per year — just $.95 above state minimum wage requirements— indicates that the majority of those positions will be part-time jobs rather than full-time or career positions.


Among the most unreasonable assertions put forward in the Mason-Dixon LIR is that the proposed casino would support more jobs per gaming position — the individual seats for gamblers at a slot machines and table games — than the largest, highest-value destination casino in Atlantic City, N.J. Based on Mason-Dixon’s projections, the casino would employ 1.21 individuals per gaming position (nearly 1,100 jobs for 900 gaming seats). By contrast, Atlantic City’s Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa, the second largest casino complex in the country, has a ratio of just 1.19 jobs per gaming position, while the average for Atlantic City is .90. Adjusting the projections from the Crossroads Gaming Resort and Spa — proposed for the identical market area in 2005–2006 — to include the same number of table games, it would yield only .55 jobs per seat.

The Applicant claims its facility — serving a primarily local and convenience market — would proportionally have more jobs than Atlantic City’s Borgata resort complex, which dwarfs Mason-Dixon in scale and scope. The estimated construction cost for Mason-Dixon is $27.03 million, while the 2009 value of the Borgata was $1.77 billion.


The LIR’s economic analysis is based on the odd proposition that none of Gettysburg’s existing businesses will be hurt when residents and current visitors spend their money at the proposed casino instead of local shops and restaurants. Based on the spending of local residents in other casino communities, area residents would annually gamble away $776 per person, or $68.3 million, at Mason Dixon — plus another nearly $18 million in estimated food, beverage and entertainment spending. Estimating half that sum would otherwise have been spent locally, that’s $43 million annually siphoned out of the pockets of local residents and businesses. Based on Mason-Dixon’s estimates, existing visitors to the community are conservatively estimated to spend an average of about $35 each at the casino, for a total annual diversion of about $78.4 million from existing county businesses, ultimately resulting in the loss of as many as 1,130 existing jobs in the community. Many positions, following the spending that supports them would be transferred to the proposed casino. But the LIR fails to recognize this, as its methodology is incapable of distinguishing between a legitimate net new job and one transferred from a local business.


The previous application for a casino oriented to the identical market area as Mason-Dixon relied heavily on touting Vicksburg, Miss., as a model of how a casino would affect Gettysburg and the surrounding area — specifically that visitation to Vicksburg National Military Park (NMP) was unaffected and actually benefitted from the introduction of casinos. Vicksburg was once a close, second to Gettysburg, in visitation among National Park Service Civil War sites, but in 1994, the first year all four Vicksburg casinos were open, visitation plunged 20 percent. By 1998, visitation had ultimately recovered to its pre-casino level and remained relatively stable until Hurricane Katrina caused another steep decline in 2005. But the ability for visitation to Vicksburg’s historic battlefield to bounce back seems to be exhausted. Unlike other national parks in Mississippi and Louisiana, which have returned to their pre-hurricane levels, Vicksburg’s visitation remains at levels not seen since the imposition of visitor fees in the 1980s or the 1970’s oil embargo, and the link cannot be ignored or easily dismissed.

Vicksburg’s main casino complex lies about 2.5 miles south of its historic Main Street area, roughly 4 miles from the main entrance to Vicksburg NMP and 1 mile from the park boundary — distances that are comparable to the proposed Gettysburg site. Between 1992 and 1994, when visitation plummeted, traffic bypassing the park’s entrance increased by the same percentage, while traffic on a key access segment of old Highway 61 running directly to the casinos exploded by 64 percent. Today, traffic through downtown Vicksburg is 17 percent lower than it was in 1998. As A Realistic Assessment concludes: “The pattern is clear: traffic to casinos up; traffic and visitation at Vicksburg’s two most significant historical, cultural, and tourism sites down.”


In rejecting the 2006 Crossroads Application, the Gaming Control Board cited the applicant’s failure to adequately address its potential geographic disadvantage, as other neighboring states were contemplating adding or expanding their gambling options. Since then, the regional gaming landscape has changed dramatically. In West Virginia, table games have been added to existing casinos, including nearby Charles Town Races and Slots. Delaware will soon add table games of its own, and the nearby Dauphin County casino overlaps with the market area that Mason-Dixon would draw upon.

Most significantly, however, the LIR fails to note the effect of the soon-to-open Maryland casinos — which were only a possibility at the time of the 2006 application, although their impact was a serious concern to the PGCB. This could cause the proposed casino to lose tens of thousands — if not a hundred thousand or more of its expected visitors following their opening
More information about the CWPT's efforts to block the casino can be found here.

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