A casino in Amish country? A potential onslaught of slots divides a rural Pennsylvania community

RCH5IMZLMFG6DARKJM3XI4CMAMSource: The Morning Call

Few people here grasped the monumental implications of Pennsylvania’s expanded gaming law until Penn National Gaming Inc. announced plans recently to build a mini-casino in this Berks County community on the edge of Amish Country.

Penn National Gaming, which operates the Hollywood Casino near Hershey, saw an opening to place a new gaming hall at a Pennsylvania Turnpike exit just outside Chester County to attract gamblers from Philadelphia’s growing western suburbs. Caernarvon Township, which includes Morgantown, saw an opportunity to capture host-community tax benefits for its 4,000 residents that otherwise might go to a neighboring municipality.

But many residents in this politically conservative area, where it’s not unusual to see Amish families driving horse-drawn carriages down Route 23 to shop at the Morgantown Walmart, regard the casino project as a deal with the devil. They see the proposed casino as a threat, an insult to a deeply religious community that could lead to an increase in drinking, personal bankruptcy, broken families and general moral decay.

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