Does Florala need BINGO? Citizens say ‘yes’

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 14, 2010

Many Florala residents say electronic bingo would be a welcome economic boost to a city that has fallen on tough times.

Monday, the Florala City Council adopted an ordinance allowing charitable organizations that have owned property in Covington County for at least five years to conduct electronic bingo. The charity would have to have a minimum of 500 machines and construct a brick-and-mortar development to house at least 500 machines and include a hotel and restaurants.

A facility that meets the minimum requirements would generate at least $697,000 for the city in the first two years and a minimum of $1.2 million each year after.

For Florala residents, that’s 697,000 reasons why electronic bingo is welcome in their city.

“We need it to have growth, but we do need to ask ourselves what it will do to our community,” said Nena Garroutte. “In my opinion, the good outweighs the bad.”

Shelly Hunt, owner of Induglences, said she’s excited about the prospect of new customers and downtown redevelopment.

“I can just picture every one of these empty stores filled with something in them,” Hunt said. “People like to vacation on the lake, walk through the downtown and shop. Imagine what it would be like if more people came and more was here to buy. If the city can get money to do that, I’m all for it.”

A similar reaction was given by the Yingst family, who was having breakfast at Bean’s Diner. The family — which was made up of Vic and Dee who relocated to Covington County from Illinois, as well as their nephew Robert and his wife Stacey from Oklahoma — said the economic impact is too great to pass up.

Robert Yinst he’d visit the establishment “no matter what.”

Vic Yingst said he felt such an establishment would be a “good thing” for Florala. His wife, Dee, was a bit more descriptive.

“It’s going to create jobs, put money into a city that desperately needs it,” she said. “We’re Baptists, but it goes down to a personal decision. If you think it’s a sin, don’t go.”

Florala’s ordinance requires a minimum of 500 machines, at least a 20,000-square-foot facility, with a hotel and restaurant. How do other Alabama gaming sites compare?

Dothan’s Country Crossing features 1,700 machines and a complex including a 10,000-seat amphitheater, three restaurants, a western saloon and a bed and breakfast. It employs an estimated 1,300 people.

Atmore’s Wind Creek Casino and Hotel features 1,600 machines, a 57,000 square foot gaming floor, four restaurants and 236 hotel rooms.

Shorter’s Quincy’s 777 Casino at VictoryLand features more than 6,400 machines, with two restaurants and a 300-room hotel.

Wetumpka’s Riverside Casino features more than 900 machines in a 39,000-square-foot facility with one restaurant.

Wetumpka’s Tallapoosa Casino features 500 machines in a 21,000-square-foot facility and one restaurant.