For Immediate Release: 04/04/06
New Gettysburg Casino Study Reveals Serious Problems in Chance Impact Report
Independent report finds that a Gettysburg slots parlor poses risk to hundreds of local businesses
(Gettysburg, Pa.) - The Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) today released an independent report on the impact of a large casino on Gettysburg and the surrounding region. The report, entitled The Impact of a Large Casino on the Gettysburg Area — A Realistic Assessment, found that Chance Enterprises, the investment group behind the proposed Gettysburg Gaming Resort and Spa (renamed Crossroads Gaming Resort and Spa to obscure its location just one mile from the battlefield), greatly exaggerates the benefits their venture would bring to the community and ignores the serious negative consequences to existing businesses and the battlefield.
"We have long suspected that Chance Enterprises was vastly overstating the benefits of a Gettysburg slots parlor," observed CWPT President James Lighthizer. "Now we have the facts to support that view. The new report confirms that a casino in Gettysburg is not just bad for history, it is also bad business."
Most of Chance's claims were first made public in the group's local impact report (LIR), a formal piece of their legally required application released in December 2005. Mr. Michael Siegel, the author of A Realistic Assessment, found the Chance LIR to be unreliable and misleading in several critical aspects. Siegel, the principal of Public and Environmental Finance Associates, is a 28-year veteran in the field of public and environmental finance and impact analysis. Based on his analysis of the LIR, Siegel concludes, "It would be difficult to find an area in Pennsylvania that is more vulnerable to the adverse effect of a large casino. The Gettysburg area's economy is too large to escape the proposed casino's adverse impacts, but not nearly large enough for them to be of relatively little consequence."
VICKSBURG'S POST CASINO EXPERIENCE: THE MODEL FOR GETTYSBURG?
Chance's LIR relies in large part on Vicksburg as a model of how its casino would affect Gettysburg and the surrounding area. One of Chance's key assertions is that visitation to Vicksburg National Military Park (NMP) was unaffected by the introduction of gambling to the area. This is not the case. In 1994, the first full calendar year after the opening of Vicksburg's first casinos, visitation to Vicksburg NMP fell 21 percent. Through 2004 there were only two years when visitation to the park equaled or slightly exceeded the 1993 level, when gambling first came to town. In the five years previous to the casinos' introduction, Vicksburg's visitation had been growing an average of five percent per year.
In contrast, visitation to Gettysburg National Military Park has increased by 21 percent over the same time period. Given the importance of tourists to Adams County and the Borough of Gettysburg, this misleading portrayal of Vicksburg's visitation numbers is of utmost concern. As the Realistic Assessment notes, "people's wallets usually accompany them."
The LIR's economic analysis is based on the odd proposition that if it omits spending by existing visitors and residents at the casino in its calculations, then none of Gettysburg's existing business will be hurt when this money goes elsewhere. As the Realistic Assessment points out, this poses a real and serious adverse impact to the Gettysburg area. In Warren County (Vicksburg), Mississippi, nonmanufacturing wage and salary employment fell by several hundred jobs following the opening of its four casinos. Not only did these casinos fail to generate a single net new nonmanufacturing wage job outside the gambling establishments themselves, they may have actually destroyed such jobs. Together with the Vicksburg Battlefield's visitation data, this strongly suggests that tens of millions of dollars of economic activity was transferred and diverted from existing Vicksburg-area businesses to its casinos.
Chance also uses Vicksburg for its assertion that the proposed casino would have no adverse social impacts. In reality, the crime rate in Warren County, Mississippi after the introduction of casinos, increased at a far greater rate than it did in Mississippi overall. While Warren County's crime rate was soaring, the national crime rate was also falling.
MORE MISREPRESENTATIONS IN THE LIR
A Realistic Assessment details numerous other serious deficiencies in the Chance LIR. Among them:
Damage to Existing Businesses: The Chance LIR fails to address the damage the casino will cause to existing businesses by the diversion and transfer of local resident and existing visitor expenditures to the casino. Siegel's report roughly estimates that about $60 million of spending by existing visitors and residents would be diverted and transferred from existing establishments to the proposed casino. This represents a sizable share of Adams County's service and retail sector spending..
Job Creation and Overnight Stays: The LIR assumes half a million or more new overnight visitors who cannot be reasonably accounted for. The level of overnight stays presumed by the report is only achieved by two mega-resort gambling destinations: Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Reputable industry studies indicate that no more than between four and eight percent of the casino's visitors from within two hours drive time will stay overnight in Adams County. In Charles Town, W.V. (home to a similarly sized slots facility) only about five percent do so.
Failure to Fully Consider Competitive Disadvantages: A Gettysburg casino would have a disadvantaged location relative to the three other casinos it will have to compete with for market share. The three competitors are within a two-hour drive from Gettysburg. As the Realistic Assessment points out, drive times to Gettysburg from the large population centers in the Washington—Baltimore area are significantly longer than to other competing casinos. A University of Massachusetts study on visitation patterns to the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos in Connecticut found that a 10—15-minute travel difference caused three to four times as many Rhode Islanders to pick the closer location. Because Chance omits key data and assumptions about its market study, it does not appear that they have given proper consideration to this effect.
Tourism to Gettysburg: With approximately 1.7 million visitors annually, Gettysburg is one of the top overall tourist destinations in Pennsylvania. Its location makes it a gateway to visitors from across the nation. Locating a casino in Gettysburg amounts to brand pollution and will have negative consequences for Pennsylvania that will not be confined to the Gettysburg area. Leisure tourism is Pennsylvania's second-largest industry, and heritage tourists tend to be the biggest spenders among leisure visitors.
With findings this dramatic on these and related topics, the Realistic Assessment should be carefully read and considered by those seeking to fully understand the potential impacts that a casino would have on the region, according to Rodney Cromeans of the coalition Businesses Against the Casino in Adams County. Believing that the information presented in the Realistic Assessment is a vital part of the dialogue and must be fully heard, Businesses Against the Casino has invited its author to present his findings on the organization's behalf during the Gaming Control Board's public hearings. "The data in this report are crucial for a full understanding of the issues at stake with this casino. As a Gettysburg businessman, I can truly relate to what these numbers mean for my bottom line," Cromeans said.
With 70,000 members, CWPT is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation's remaining Civil War battlefields. Since 1987, the organization has saved more than 22,000 acres of hallowed ground, including 591 acres at Gettysburg. Most recently, CWPT partnered with the Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association to protect the Daniel Lady Farm at Gettysburg. CWPT's website is located at www.civilwar.org.