The small Pennsylvania city of Bethlehem is haunted by steel. For about 140 years, Bethlehem Steel employed more than half of the area's residents. But in the 1990s the company dissolved, leaving behind a sprawling industrial wasteland, massive brick buildings and deserted machinery.
Now developers have a plan to preserve the old steel mill by turning it into a mega-entertainment casino complex. Aries Keck of member station WHYY reports.
The Las Vegas-based Sands Casino company wants to put 3,000 slot machines at the steel mill site. The $350 million project will also feature a monorail and a National Museum of Industrial History. Local officials see the casino plan as a way to help ease $374 million in city debt — about half the profits would go into local government coffers.
Opponents of the plan worry that having busloads of gamblers pouring into Bethlehem will hurt the character of the place. Most Bethlehem churches are strongly against the casino. A sign down the street from City Hall reads: "Jesus Saves, The Devil Gambles."
But supporters of the project say the city badly needs the economic boost the casino will bring. "I'm not necessarily for the slot machines; we need jobs," says Susan Chase, who stood near City Hall holding a sign backing the casino.
BethWorks Now, the developer of the casino project, aims to save these old Bethlehem Steel blast furnaces, along with more than 30 other historic buildings.
Daniel M. Carrico