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vtclark

Possible Development Issues for Shiloh and Other TN Historic Sites

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As some of you may know, I became involved in a movement last year to stop a casino from being built a stone's thrown from Gettysburg National Military Park. This past weekend, I attended a private meeting of a political watchdog group for Tennessee State Government. In that meeting, it was brought to my attention that casino gambling and the creation of a state-wide casino movement would more than likely be the focus of fall legislative session. The State of Tennessee lost millions of dollars this past year when federal dollars stopped coming in from the Recovery Act. Since the state does not have a diversified tax base, the sole income source is sales taxes, which have fallen off due to the economic downturn. The current political climate in the state, along with the budget shortfalls, will make this a prime opportunity for casino investors to seize the moment. One of the first issues that we discussed was location. Almost everyone in the room agreed that the state would consider river-based casinos long before they would consider something land-based. Given that reality, places like Knoxville, Nashville, and Memphis might be prime targets to start. However, based on models from other states, it is only a matter of time before well-attended historic sites become a target. That in turn would put Shiloh at risk, along with Chattanooga.

I made a prophetic statement during a No Casino Gettysburg meeting in April 2010. I told the crowd "I fight here today because I refuse to see a floating gambling joint in the Tennessee River as a look across the graves of the brave Wisconsin men that died to protect their company flag." I hope and pray that never becomes a reality.

I also pray that we are wrong about this. However, the current governor is neck-deep in the casino gaming industry, looking for new ways to raise state revenue, and trying to keep tax dollars within the state itself. This political climate is very akin the environment in which Eddie Rendell passed casinos in backroom dealings in Pennsylvania. Valley Forge, the birthplace of American tenacity, is now outflanked by a noisy and out-of-place casino hall.

Although I have nothing in terms of evidence to back up these statements, I am trying to issue a warning. Keep your eyes and ears open. I don't think Tennesseans will allow casinos if the issue goes to a statewide referendum. However, I fear the loop holes in gambling legislation in this state will open the doors for a mirror image of the Pennsylvania Christmas Present (casino law passed on Christmas Eve around 11 p.m.).

If I hear or find out anything else, I will post it here.

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Welcome to the new board, Violet. I see you've added some of your wonderful pictures to our gallery images. Very nice to see.

On the casino issue, this might be a little blasphemous, but I didn't actually have an issue with a casino at Gettysburg per say. It was the location so near the park that was the problem for me. If they wanted to build one on one of the roads into town but farther away, it would be better than where they chose. Or even over by the already-developed area where the Wal Mart is, assuming it's still in the same place. But not basically right next to the park.

As for Shiloh, my semi-wild guess is that any casino on the Tennessee is likely go in further downriver, maybe around Savannah. Which I wouldn't be wild about, to me at least it would be the lesser of two evils. Further downriver still, would be much better, if they do put anything in along the river. The park itself benefits in that regard from its relative isolation, and I don't see the area being attractive to a casino developer. I could be wrong about that, although I certainly hope not.

The big, headline-making development issues we've had in recent years - Gettysburg, Manassas, and the Wilderness - are all in or near high-traffic and/or high-population areas. They benefit from the high profile, but suffer from it as well. It will happen again, especially in that area of the country. It's a never-ending battle. With Vicksburg, I would think its location right on I-20 and also being on the river had a lot to do with casinos moving in there as well.

Shiloh is also on a major river of course, but pretty far off the nearest interstate. And also pretty far from the nearest major city. It doesn't get the traffic that a lot of those other places get. I sometimes rue this fact because I think more people should know about and visit Shiloh. But I also see how the park has benefited from it over time. It's the same catch-22 that many of the Eastern parks face, only in reverse. It's not that Shiloh is immune to development threats. But for now at least, I really don't see casinos in its future. And I hope that never changes.

In any case, I appreciate your vigilance where this is concerned, and if you hear of anything that sounds ominous, be sure to let us know.

Perry

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