Southern Star draws big crowd on opening night

Published 11:31 am Friday, August 6, 2010

Scores of people filed into the new Lowndes County casino to try their hand at a somewhat traditional, yet high tech game of bingo.

The Southern Star casino in White Hall opened its doors to the public Aug. 5 and in spite of the rain, people broke from their traditional routines of commuting to Atmore to enjoy the new facility.

Dave Haigler of Elmore County said he drove all the way from Elmore county to enjoy a game of bingo.

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“I saw the grand opening when I opened the newspaper this morning and wanted to be the first one here,” said Haigler. “I love bingo and go to Atmore all the time to play.”

Haigler said he enjoys all types of games outside of bingo and mentioned he would commute to Southern Star more often if the casino offered a larger variety of games to play.

Bingo cards and interactive tabletop computer bingo machines work hand in hand depending on the player’s preference of various versions of bingo.

“It’s just like traditional bingo,” said Leslie Clark, casino general manager. “If a person gets a bingo, they still have to raise their hand and call it out.”When a player purchases a pack of bingo cards, or games, they can play on paper or the tabletop computer.

As the numbers are called out by the announcer, wall-mounted number boards will light up with that number.

It is then up to the player to mark their sheet, or touch the number on the computer screen. If the player is playing multiple cards on the computer, the machine will automatically mark that number on all their cards.

“The computer tells the player how many numbers they are away from a bingo,” added Clark. “This is what  separates our games from those deemed illegal by Governor Bob Riley’s Task Force.”

The initial intent of the casino was to implement electronic bingo, but “backed off” to see what would happen after other casinos were raided, according to Clark.

Matthew Crenshaw of Selma said he “loves bingo and has played all over the nation.”

“I play the dogs, horses and pretty much everything,” said Crenshaw. “I plan to visit here regularly.”

Southern Star currently employs about 25 people at the casino, but Clark has high expectations that if they were able to implement electronic bingo, the facility could see up to 115 jobs in the first phase.

“We‘re looking at about 150 jobs after the second phase,” said Clark. “In the second phase, there would be a 40,000 square-foot building with a 100-room hotel.”

All of the proceeds from the games go to White Hall Enrichment Advancement Team (WHEAT), according to Clark.

“After the lease, all the money goes to the charity,” said Clark. “We rent this building from a developer and pay them a lease.”