Southern Star casino opens Thursday with ‘paper’ Bingo

Published 4:14 pm Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Southern Star Entertainment Center in White Hall has scheduled its grand opening for Thursday at 5:30 p.m., according to a press release.

“We’re really proud of our new facility and all the amenities we have to offer,” said Southern Star General Manager Les Clark. “We believe that we will have the nicest bingo center in Alabama and our great food and daily specials will keep bringing people back. Southern Star without a doubt is a first-class entertainment facility and once people visit, they’re going to be delighted by what they find. We’re also very pleased to be able to provide jobs to an area that really needs them and we look forward to expanding our offerings in the future.”

The new gaming center in White Hall is located at 7473 U.S. Highway 80-West. It will be open Thursdays through Sundays and includes a bingo facility and restaurant.

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But questions over the legality of electronic Bingo in Alabama have caused Southern Star officials to amend their business plan.

The complex now plans to mimic the paper Bingo facilities now operating in Montgomery.

“Its still going to charity and it meets all the requirements for the state supreme court,” said general manager Les Clark. “You will still have to yell ‘Bingo’ and we will have a ball caller, but we will utilize computers and handheld screens so players can play up to one hundred cards at a time.”

Clark said they would not be installing the 450 electronic gaming machines that were first announced.

“We won’t use those until something changes in the law,” Clark said. “Until that law changes, we will do handheld and computer bingo with paper just like the halls in Montgomery.”

Southern Star reported it would donate a portion of its proceeds to local charity, WHEAT (White Hall Enrichment Advancement Team).

In a press release from the Internal Revenue Service in July, WHEAT was one of the 4,500 non-profit organizations in Alabama that had to re-file its tax-exempt paperwork with the federal government or risk losing its non-profit status.

The deadline to re-file is Oct. 15.

Two of the three individuals listed on the charity’s board of directors, both Katie Welch Jackson and White Hall mayor Elizabeth Owens, have said in phone interviews that they no longer are associated with the charity.

Attempts to contact the group’s last listed director, Ester Jackson, have been unsuccessful for the last three months.

But Clark said Jackson has been at Southern Star every day.

“She’s the director of WHEAT and the person I answer to,” Clark said.

Legislation legalizing bingo in Lowndes County requires a charity to be in existence for two years immediately prior to being issued a bingo license.

Questions on who is actually in charge of Southern Star Entertainment Center also still linger, following a May 24 change of registered agent with the secretary of state’s office.

Also, The secretary of state’s office now lists James Chrisman, not Les Clark as the registered agent.

Clark said this was correcting a previous error in documentation.

“They had me down as the developer, and that was incorrect,” Clark said. “James Chrisman is the attorney with the developers, but I am not even sure what state he works in.”