Proposed Casino in Rural Berks County Draws Big Crowd to Public Hearing

CAERNARVON TWP., Pa. (WPVI) -- A local gaming company has big plans for a casino and gaming center in Berks County.

But dozens of residents are opposed to it and made their voices heard at a hearing this week.

It was among the biggest turn-outs the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has ever seen at one of its public hearings.

And the board spokesperson, Doug Harbach, says that's great!

He says the board is, "...going to take a look at what the community thinks about this project and they are also going to look at whether or not this is a project that can sustain itself financially for the long term."

Not surprisingly, proponents say it's all about jobs and revenue.

Ryan Helms, President of the Berks County Building Trades, says this is the kind of project they have been hoping for, "We've lost too much industry and business through the years for middle-class families and this creates a great opportunity for local construction workers, contractors."

But Sam Rohrer of the Pennsylvania Pastors Network says this plan is an affront to the history and culture of this region.

"This area of Southern Berks County is a culture that is very conservative, very God-fearing, has been for a long time and to put a casino in the middle of that is totally incongruous."

We spoke with people who live nearby. Some say a casino would do nothing to change the lifestyles of people who live here.

Alison Worrall of West Chester says, "Where the location of the casino is, you're never going to see those guests. They're going to get off that Turnpike, go enjoy themselves at the casino and turn around and get right back on the Turnpike again."

But most others, like Ben Brubacher of Milton, Pennsylvania say a casino would damage the social fabric of this quiet, rural community.

He says, "This is a strong Amish and Mennonite heritage in this area and I would hate to see that heritage ruined or destroyed or even impacted by a casino or any other business."

If constructed it would be a $110 million mini-casino located where the Turnpike, I-176, and Route 10 meet in Caernarvon Township, Berks County very close to the Lancaster County border.

Officials say it is not a done deal yet. Locals say they simply hope their concerns are not ignored through this process.
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