New casino in White Hall waits to open

Posted by: Melissa McKinney - bio | email

WHITE HALL, AL (WSFA) - The building looks like a fortress just off Highway 80 in White Hall.

"I think it's a nice facility," says Lowndes County Commissioner and White Hall resident, Robert Harris.

To the folks who live in Lowndes County, the new Southern Star Entertainment Center brings hope for a bright future.

"People are wanting to work," he adds.

He knows the new casino could bring jobs and revenue just like the White Hall Entertainment Center did years ago.

"I think that it is something that is needed. Jobs are needed there because our unemployment rate is so high," adds Harris.

But for now, the uncertainty surrounding the legality of bingo keeps the doors at both locations shut.

The Nevada-based company that owns Southern Star spoke with WSFA 12 News about their decision to keep building despite the statewide bingo battle.

Owners say the project was born two years ago when gaming in Lowndes County was considered legal.

It was during construction that the bingo battle heated up.

Now Southern Star owners say they're waiting for lawmakers to act on a pending bingo bill before opening.

Meanwhile, White Hall Gaming Center attorneys hope the new player in town doesn't cut into their business.

"We want to be sure that the customer base is there. It will somewhat impact our profit revenue and the amount of money we can give to other charities," says Collins Pettaway, White Hall Gaming Center's attorney.

For now, neither casino is making a dime.

They're forced to wait for the legislature, or the courts to decide their fate.

"We are losing money, but we would rather do that and wait to see what happens with our legislature," says Pettaway.

Southern Star owners say if the Alabama State House votes yes for the bingo bill, they would be forced to wait until at least November when Alabama residents would go to the polls and vote yes or no on gaming.

If the House votes no, the owners will have wait for a court decision or for the next session of the legislature.

The community of White Hall set up an organization called the White Hall Enrichment Advancement Team that will operate and manage the Southern Star casino, including determining when it's appropriate to open.

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