The Second Battle of Gettysburg (In the News)Feb. 1, 2006
Excerpt from cover story in Hartford Courant Jan. 22, 2006.
AT THE EDGE OF LINCOLN'S `HALLOWED GROUND,' A NEW FIGHT RAGES -- NOT OVER SLAVERY, BUT SLOT MACHINES
Earl L. Grinols, of Baylor University economics professor, is nationally recognized for conducting studies that measure the benefits and costs of introducing gambling. He likens Gettysburg's situation to Branson, Mo., the town with dozens of country music theaters that in 2004 rejected a gambling proposal because it would too dramatically alter the town's existing image and probably economically detract from its music franchise. (Barbara Ernico, one of the investors in Chance Enterprises, has visited the Vicksburg, Miss., battlefield area and argues that riverboat gambling in that area has not adversely affected that Civil War site.)
"In a place like Gettysburg, where you already have a lot of tourists coming in, how do you know that the casino won't just cut away at the existing base?" Grinols asks. "You would need to create some economic models to specifically measure this, but they would probably show that you would only be cannibalizing existing tourist revenues by introducing gambling."
Grinols points out that most studies of gambling show that "regional convenience" gambling parlors like the proposal in Gettysburg draw a high percentage of customers from a radius 35 to 70 miles away, drawing most of their money out of the local population. A high percentage of these revenues, Grinols says, comes from "addictive and pathological" gamblers who now have a local opportunity to play the slots.
Grinols also rejects the argument that opponents who cite the "hallowed ground" value of a location like Gettysburg are making a weak argument that appeals to the emotions instead of hard economic sense.
"The `hallowed ground' argument is not specious," Grinols says. "Abraham Lincoln went there and called it that. People misunderstand what is economic. Anything that enhances the well-being of human beings, that is valued by human beings, is economic. So, by destroying what the conception of Gettysburg is, we've destroyed economic value."
Complete story at courant.com (fee).