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Mason-Dixon Downs Casino cancelled

Danielle Ryan

(6/15) The battle for the proposed $300 million Mason-Dixon Downs casino/racetrack has finally come to an end, as local businessman David LeVan made the announcement that he would not submit his application for the racino permit. On June 14, hours before the permit for the casino and racetrack license was due, LeVan decided against submitting his application. LeVan referred to the uncertainty surrounding the gaming expansion legislation in Harrisburg as the reason for choosing not to proceed with his project. This was LeVanís third and last attempt at placing a casino in Gettysburg.

The casino/racetrack combo, aka Ďracino,í license was the only casino license left in Pennsylvania. The proposed racino would have consisted of a Standardbred harness racetrack partnered with a casino that would have housed at least 1,500 slot machines, several eateries and a hotel. LeVan brought the proposal to the Freedom Township Planning Commission in February, and his team had since been working on a revision to a text amendment, which if voted upon favorably, would have allowed the casino to be placed on a 700 acre mixed-use parcel of land.

Many local residents feared for the casinoís proposed location on Emmitsburg Road, less than a mile from U.S. Route 15 and the Maryland line, in the heart of the rural community of Freedom Township.

During the June Planning Commission meeting, the casino topic was pulled from the agenda, as comments and amendments hadnít been received back from the County, so LeVanís team was not able to present the Commission with a finalized version of the text amendment. Action would not have been taken until the July meeting.

Residents fought hard since the third proposal was introduced, citing numerous concerns surrounding the new facility including safety, upkeep and maintenance of the township roads, ruining the integrity of the rural aspect of the township, the potentially "negative scene" brought to the township and many others. In May, a group of "No Casino" supporters brought a petition to the Board of Supervisors urging them to consider placing a referendum on the November ballot. They collected 120 signatures in just four days from registered voters in the township that were against the casino.

As the "No Casino" group found, in the state of PA, a referendum may be issued to prohibit a racetrack if there is an existent racetrack within 50 air miles of the proposed facility. A referendum may be placed on a ballot by a resolution of the Board of Supervisors once they receive a petition representing at least 25% of those who attended the last political election. By the "No Casino" groupís calculations, they only needed 47 names on the petition, and they far exceeded that number twice.

As far as the gaming legislation is concerned: On June 7, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a sweeping gambling expansion that would bring casino-style gambling to airports and bars. It also sets out regulations for online gambling and fantasy sports contests. In addition, the bill provides an allowance for as many as 40,000 slots-like video gaming terminals in liquor establishments, including bars, bowling alleys and truck stops. This may have been the reason for not submitting the application, but it also could be said that the referendumís "50 air miles" clause may have also played a role in making the decision.

"I continue to believe that a gaming project would be tremendous for the local Adams County economy, create thousands of jobs, and provide desperately needed funding for countless municipal and community projects," said LeVan.

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