I suspect, however, that the casino would not be quite the job/economic/tourism boom that its boosters hope. I do not think the casino, should it be built, will be the end of it. Certainly, plans currently call for reusing the existing structures on the site. At some point in the future, however, someone will think of a profitable business concept that should be built nearby to address the needs of gamblers and travelers. This is truly the greatest danger the casino will bring. Sprawl creeps. It is a flood that cannot be seen because it seeps in.
Why, I wonder, do they expect the casino to do well in an area ringed by preexisting facilities?
Gettysburg isn’t and will probably never be another Las Vegas, the prototypical desert mirage. But it is hard for me to deny the inherent vapidity in the casino gambling of today.
Advertising for a good time abounds since casinos must pull in more than the addicts. Faces full of glee and sparkling images of wealth and relaxation are everywhere casinos exist. Yet their “reasons” for joy are just as empty as the smiles on the posters. The models are not people really enjoying and savoring the events. The euphoria of a big win that a casino promises is no more meaningful or truly “fun.”
The proposed site lies about a half mile from a battlefield where nearly fifty thousand were counted among the killed, wounded or captured. The fact that we can consider such a thing says much about economic conditions and the desire to improve them, but it also shows just how emotionally distant the Civil War and its casualties have become to us. We have not forgotten them, nor could we, given how the area’s economy remains tied to the battlefield. Yet those immediate visceral feelings of death, the loss of countless loved ones, the disruption of war on the doorstep … that has been long gone.
Preserving these battlefields has been a challenge in recent decades due to their proximity to the nation’s capital. It will only grow harder as additional generations come and go.
When I think of Gettysburg, what comes to mind are the images of death captured by the fledgling art of photography. We no longer remember what it was like to be surrounded by the smell of the wounded, the sick, and the bloated dead. We no longer remember what it was like to bury over seven thousand men. But not so very long ago, Gettysburg endured it. Yes, people live there still, and they must play. Despite that, a casino so close to the site of a transformative, traumatic battle is neither in the right place nor the right time. Perhaps when the Gettysburg’s experiences of Civil War have truly been forgotten, and the gravestones worn away or built under, then, it may truly fit in.
"A Harvest of Death" by Timothy O'Sullivan
Historic photograph from:
Civil War Preservation Trust
Old yet relevant article about casinos: