Florala welcomes electronic bingo

Mayor Robert Williamson
Mayor Robert Williamson

Posted by: Cody Holyoke - bio | email

FLORALA, AL (WSFA) - If you drive down 5th Avenue in Florala, you'll see bare storefronts-- locked up--looking for new owners.

City leaders want to change that.  Monday, the city council passed an ordinance allowing electronic bingo within the city limits.

"We felt like--as a council and as a mayor as a whole--that electronic bingo was coming to the city, coming to the county, coming to the state eventually anyways," explained Mayor Robert Williamson.

Florala's mayor won't say who's interested in moving in, but he believes bingo would bring in close to a million dollars each year for the city.

"We think that it may be a viable opportunity to have an influx of money into the community, so we've got to investigate it," Williamson said.

The move poses an interesting question: could electronic bingo be the economic savior Florala needs?  Critics don't think so.

Covington County District Attorney Greg Gambril is already weighing in, writing in part, "...no matter whether people feel that electronic bingo is an easy or logical fix to our economic situation, that does not mean that one can by-pass laws of this state."

Some residents tell us they at least want a say in the matter.

"I'm not advocating for or against. I'm saying let the people choose. Let them vote," said Danny Franklin of Florala, the city's former mayor.

Others welcome the idea.

"I think they should let it come to Florala, because they need the money," said one Florala woman.

"I just think that people should be able to do what they want to do," commented another woman who lives over the state line.

Mayor Williamson says no laws were broken, citing a 1994 constitutional amendment he says allows charitable bingo.

Williamson admits he's well aware of the gambling battle brewing in Montgomery.

"It's a risk.  A gamble--no pun intended, I guess--but it's a risk we need to take," said the mayor.

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