Opponents Dominate Pennsylvania Casino Hearing - Friday 26th of May 2006

PENNSYLVANIA As reported by The Morning Call: "Opponents of a proposed casino in Bethlehem dominated a Monday hearing before the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, saying the project would increase traffic and crime problems and disrupt the city's quaint charm.

"Wearing yellow 'No Bethlehem Casino' buttons and waving signs that said 'Bethlehem Resident Against Casino,' about 15 people asked the gaming board to reject a proposal by Sands Bethworks Gaming to build an $879 million casino and shopping complex on 126 acres of former Bethlehem Steel land in south Bethlehem.

"… About 80 people attended the second of three hearings at Allentown's Crowne Plaza regarding plans to build casinos in Bethlehem, Allentown and Limerick Township. The third and final public hearing is today.

"… Monday's hearing underscored some strengths and weaknesses of two Lehigh Valley projects competing for a gaming license: the Bethlehem project and Aztar Corp.'s plan to build a $325 million casino and hotel in East Allentown.

"… The Bethlehem project, which includes as a partner the Nevada gaming company Las Vegas Sands, has built an effective public relations campaign by promising to preserve historic structures on the Bethlehem Steel site, an icon of industrial history and a symbol of Bethlehem's prosperity before the company plunged into bankruptcy.

"But the project also has run into organized opposition. Some City Council members last year unsuccessfully tried to block the project through a zoning change, and citizens groups have formed to try to prevent the project from being built.

"… The Allentown project, meanwhile, saw virtually no opposition Monday. Instead, several community groups said the cash-strapped city desperately needs an economic jolt.

"… Aztar officials said they hope the contrast gives them a leg up. They have pitched themselves as a friendly, small-town gaming company, highlighting community support for a casino they built 10 years ago in Evansville, Ind.

"… Lehigh Valley residents are deeply split over whether a slots casino should be built in the region. But if one comes, they'd prefer it be in Bethlehem, according to a Morning Call/Muhlenberg College poll conducted in March ...

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