Meeks issues bingo permit

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sheriff Dennis Meeks issued the Florala Historical Society a bingo permit Tuesday.

The group made application for the permit in February.

The permit, which was issued yesterday, but says it is effective March 4, 2010 through March 4, 2011, states that bingo games can be held at 1099 Fifth St. in Florala on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. A historical society member said the permitted location is the group’s historic depot.

The permit is the latest development in an unfolding story of bingo in Florala. In January, the city council adopted a resolution setting minimum standards for an electronic bingo operation and putting guidelines in place for permitting a facility. In February, the city announced that the Florala Historical Society had entered an agreement with a developer in Gulf Shores. That developer is associated with gaming interests in 27 states and has proposed building an entertainment complex in Florala. The complex would include a full-service restaurant, sandwich shop, retail, entertainment venue and hotel. The developer expected to create 1,500 jobs.

At the time, Florala Mayor Robert Williamson said the developer could open a temporary facility within 45 days. Yesterday, he said that was still a possibility.

“I’d say that could still happen in 45 days,” Williamson said.

The bingo permit issued this week does not state any form of bingo, but last month, Meeks indicated he would only issue permits for paper bingo in the following written statement: “In accordance with Acts of Alabama, First Special Section 1993, Act. Number 93-886, Section 1, subsection 1, the definition of ‘bingo’ has the following meaning: ‘The game where numbers or symbols on a card are matched with numbers or symbols selected at random.’

“A card is commonly made of paper,” the statement read. “Therefore, until the Alabama Legislature changes or amends the existing law, or the Alabama Supreme Court renders a decision in the affirmative that electronic bingo machines are legal, this office will uphold the law, based on the local act that is in place at this time in Covington County.”

Tuesday, Williamson said he was pleased the Historical Society has finally received its requested permit.

He said he has not spoken with the developer since the permit was issued and isn’t sure what course of action the developer will want to take.

“This has always been a landscape that changed frequently,” Williamson said. “Most of the things that have occurred recently (in the bingo debate) are positive things for the city.”