Bingo Hall's Legality Questioned; Homeowners May Get What They Want

It has turned a quiet neighborhood into what some describe as a circus. Now, two congressmen are questioning the legality of Wetumpka's new bingo hall. Congressmen Terry Everett and Bob Riley asked the governor, the attorney general, and the U.S. attorney to investigate the bingo hall, which they describe as a "wolf in sheep's clothing." That's because there is no bingo inside, just video gambling machines that pay out winnings in cash.

The Poarch Creek Indians say the so-called bingo hall is legal because it's on Indian land. But the U.S. attorney and attorney general are still looking into the matter. Meanwhile, homeowners who live nearby seem to be getting more comfortable with their new neighbor. They've had complaints about the heavy traffic around the bingo hall, but a solution may be in the works.

So many cars pull into the bingo hall's gravel parking lot each day, they have to pack it down with heavy equipment. To get there, you have to drive into the River Oaks subdivision off Highway 231. It's the only way in or out. A left turn takes you to private homes or a right turn takes you to the bingo hall.

Homeowners say the traffic on the weekend is maddening. "If I wanted to run out and get milk, I may have wait in line 20 minutes to get back to my house," says Christine Carenza. So Carenza met with the mayor and a representative of the Poarch Creek Indians Tuesday to try and find the answer.

"They listened to all our points of view and what we were wanting and they're willing to do what they can to make us happy," says Carenza. The proposal is to shut down the River Oaks entrance and build a new one behind the existing bingo hall. It would connect to Wetumpka's main street near downtown.

Wetumpka mayor Scott Golden says the new entrance would also benefit the city of Wetumpka. "It would also kind of direct visitors to our historic downtown riverfront area," he says. Homeowners say if the new entrance is built, they will be satisfied.

The Poarch Creeks say they'll need to get final approval from the tribal chief sometime next week. But if that happens, construction could begin in a couple of months.