Pennsylvannia native and Battlefield Harley Davidson owner, David Levan, has proposed building a casino in Adams County, just miles away from historic Gettysburg Pennsylvania and is now facing serious backlash from the community.
LeVan applied for a harness racing license and a license to operate a casino in order to execute his most recent casino project; Mason-Dixon Downs. The proposed project will include a standardbred harness racing track and a casino with slots and table games. The property LeVan has chosen for the project is currently owned by Mason Dixon Country Club, which is located right on the border of Maryland and Pennsylvania. This is LeVan’s third attempt to bring gambling to Gettysburg and the third time the community has argued against it.
The site for the proposed race track and casino is roughly three miles from Gettysburg National Military Park, which is the historic site of the Battle of Gettysburg. The battle recorded the largest number of casualties in the American Civil War and is widely regarded as the turning point of the war. Those opposed to the building of Mason-Dixon Downs would argue that the building of the race track and casino would diminish Gettysburg’s historic authenticity.
Earlier this month a petition against the construction of Mason-Dixon Downs was created by a group named “No Casino Gettysburg,” an advocacy group that has opposed the construction of a casino in Gettysburg since 2005. The petition states that “A harness racetrack and casino so close to the battlefield is not only incompatible with Gettysburg’s solemn legacy, it directly endangers this hallowed ground by encouraging increased development.” The petition, posted on Change.org, has been signed by over 3,000 people.
LeVan argues that his project has the potential to generate jobs for Adams Country residents. These jobs, LeVan believes, could raise the average salary from $38,000, which is significantly lower than the statewide average of $42,000.
In an interview with the York Daily Record David LaTorre, a spokesperson for Mason-Dixon Downs, pointed out that many of the people who signed the petition appear to live outside Adams County and even the state of Pennsylvania and such people would be unaffected by the project. What’s more, LaTorre noted that the proposed race track and casino “wouldn’t even have a Gettysburg mailing address.” Perhaps LaTorre’s strongest argument is that the location of the proposed casino would be significantly further away than those located in Pennsylvania near historic sites such as Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Valley Forge National Park and Fort Necessity National Battlefield.
Despite LeVan’s arguments, No Casino Gettysburg’s co-chair Susan Paddock insists that the project is too close to the battlefield. “You wouldn’t take the Mona Lisa and put it in a neon frame,” Paddock said in reference to the construction of Mason-Dixon Downs.
However, a community petition is not the only problem that LeVan and his associates face. The project is set to be constructed in a mixed-use district, which doesn’t allow the construction of casino’s and has strict restrictions regarding building size, which could stop the project completely. LeVan’s attorney applied to have the zoning ordinance amended but no decision has been made. LeVan and his representatives are expected to present more details regarding the project at the next supervisors meeting, which will be held March 8.