Caernarvon Township Does Not Want Hollywood Casino Morgantown
Residents in Caernarvon Township say they’re troubled by the impending construction of Hollywood Casino Morgantown. Since Caernarvon Township sits in the middle of Amish Country, they believe Penn National Gaming’s newest casino is a poor fit.
Soon, a 81,425-square-foot casino will spring up in the midst of their community, which residents often call “Morgantown”. Hollywood Casino Morgantown will contain 750 slot machines, 30 table games, and flashy entertainment lounge. Many see the neon lights as woefully out of place in the rural community.
The township did not opt out of hosting one of the mini-casinos approved when Gov. Tom Wolf signed a budget bill in October 2017. More than 1,000 of Pennsylvania’s 2,500 municipalities opted out of the Category 4 casino plan, meaning they would have no casino.
Of course, Caernarvon Township’s leaders made the key decision, so not everyone had a say in what happened. The decision opened the door to a mini-casino, but many of the local residents never imagined a casino operator would build in such a remote location.
“Don’t Gamble with Our Future”
Edward Kurtz, an 86-year old residents whose Mennonite grandparents once owned the 36 acres where Hollywood Casino Morgantown will sit, says he is troubled by the development.
Kurtz, who himself is a former Mennonite reverend, told Fox News, “Right about where my grandparents’ house was they want to put a casino, so I’m upset and very sad for me and my community.”
The retired clergyman’s opinion seems representative of many in the religiously conservative community. A ride through the area shows many red-and-white yard signs that say, “Don’t gamble with our future.” It’s a polite way of telling Penn National Gaming to build somewhere else.
Amish Elder: “Don’t See Any Good”
One 80-year old Amish elder who wish to remain anonymous said he “doesn’t see any good coming of a casino.” The elder told news report Talia Kirkland, “It’s the opposite of what this community is built on: hard work and honesty.”
At a hearing last month, a group of residents told Penn National executives they did not want the casino. Despite those statements, Township leaders voted to allow the satellite casino’s construction.
Township leaders argue the casino’s presence will be a financial boon for the community’s tax base. With the additional funds, Caernarvon Township Supervisors will add more emergency services and make much-needed repairs to the road system.
Allen Styer Says Opposition’s Points Are “Crazy”
Two cultures are clashing in the debate, as the opposition and the town leaders cannot see each other’s perspective. One might say it’s a clash between 20th century values and 21st century modernization, between rural and progressive worldviews, or between religious and material approaches to the community.
Allen Styer III, the chairman of the Caernarvon Township Supervisors, expressed shock at the opposition. Styer said, “The kind of stuff they were bringing up is crazy.”
The community leader argued, “Right now our entire budget is $2.6 million. The casino will contribute an additional $1.6 million. That’s more than half, that’s a huge benefit to the community.”
Resident Welcomes Job Creation
Allen Eagle, a local resident, said he was happy to see casino-related jobs added, because they promised to be lifetime jobs: “It will be jobs that aren’t manufacturing jobs….Frankly I don’t want to work a job where I could lose my life [if the jobs move overseas]. Nor am I qualified, but I can be trained to deal cards.”
Jeff Morris, the VP of Penn National Gaming, emphasized the job creation. Morris gave the figures, “We look forward to the opportunity to bring approximately 275 new construction jobs and 250 new permanent jobs to the area.”
Morgantown Residents’ Anti-Casino Petition
Rev. Coleen Painter, pastor of the Elverson United Methodist Church, organized a petition drive to oppose the casino. The petition collected over 1,000 signatures — a huge amount in a township of 4,006 people.
Coleen Painter pointed out several drawbacks to having a local casino. She said, “A casino has the potential to bring unwanted financial instability to community members, who may begin gambling.”
It also might bring undesireables to the community, both in the form of outsiders driving to play at the casino and permanent residents moving to the area for casino jobs.
Painter joked the Penn National might find unwanted visitors at their door, too. The Methodist minister said, “If they move forward with a casino these Christian folks will be at your door, preaching the good news to your clients. And I think that great, but you [Penn National] may not.”