The Valley Forge Casino opened on March 31. The casino does not gen- erate tax revenue for the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District. Luke Rafferty/The SPOKE
Two thousand five hundred parking spaces frame the shiny renovated building as a giant letter “V” stands watch over the flow of vehicles in and out of the parking lot at the new Valley Forge Casino.
The eleventh casino in Pennsylvania opened near the Valley Forge Convention Center on March 31, with 600 slot machines and 50 table games. The state’s gambling industry has taken off since the July 2004 legislature authorized 14 casinos within state borders. Pennsylvania’s March revenues have made it the second largest gambling market in the nation. Down the street from the King of Prussia Mall, the $150 million casino resort will be joining that market.
The casino’s arrival generated debate among community members. While some are concerned, Tom Ciccoli, a business owner in Upper Merion, the township in which the Valley Forge Casino resides, sees the establishment as beneficial to the community’s economy. He believes that the project allowed for the renovation of a building that was falling into disrepair. Additionally, the casino has created an estimated 645 fulltime jobs.
“It’s nice to see money poured back into the community, into a building. In King of Prussia right now you have 25 percent of commercial real estate [standing] empty,” Ciccoli said. “In this bad economy, it hires a lot of people.”
However, Upper Merion Fire Marshal John Waters said that the opinions of the township and its citizens never had the power to determine the ultimate fate of the casino, regardless of their validity.
“The township had no say as to whether it could or could not go there. That was actually determined by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and their gaming commission,” Waters said. “We did, however, I believe, hold a hearing about it to hear the concerns from various individuals within the community. And there were some who had some concerns.”
Profits earned from the casino are taxed by local and state governments. Despite its proximity to students at Conestoga and other T/E community members, the casino’s location on the edge of Upper Merion Township means tax money from the casino will not be going to the T/E district directly on the local government level.
Because they believe the casino will bring more problems than profit, some local residents do not welcome the new enterprise. Senior Chloe Beltran was particularly put off by the potential effect that the casino could have on the historical environment of the nearby Valley Forge National Park.
“I think it definitely downplays the whole historical significance—that the Valley Forge Park was here during the Revolutionary War, and that it’s such a big part of American history,” Beltran said.
Sophomore Eric Szpila did not share some of the concerns that had been raised regarding the casino’s possible effects on the community.
“I don’t think it’ll be a bad influence,” Szpila said. “I mean, there’s people that will gamble, and there’s people that won’t, and nothing that’s going to be in the environment is going to stop them. So that casino opening isn’t going to change their future.”
Some community members, such as Beltran, have strong views on gambling, but were unable to participate in local government decisions surrounding the casino since they are not Upper Merion residents.
“It’s just sad to see people using other people in a way—that they’ re using chance to gain more money and then they lose it all,” Beltran said.