Florala needs AG opinion

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 27, 2010

All Florala needs to open its proposed electronic bingo facility is an attorney general’s opinion on the legality of the proposed machines, Florala Mayor Robert Williamson said Monday.

“We’re going to do our best to see it come to fruition,” Williamson said of the proposed entertainment complex in Florala that, once completed, would include a full-service restaurant, sandwich shop, retail, entertainment venue, hotel and at least 500 electronic bingo machines.

“To make that happen, we have – from the start – said the first step was putting our ordinance into place that is compliant with the 1994 Constitutional amendment (that allows charitable bingo in Covington County.) We’ve done that. Now, we’re continuing on that path, plodding along.

“We’ve been called the bingo turtle,” Williamson said jokingly. “We’re slow in our process, but we’re committed. There has been no change on Florala’s end. We still have our same developer who has made no change in their plans to come to Florala.

“Right now, our best case scenario is to get an opinion from (attorney general) Troy King as to the legality of the machines,” he said.

Williamson said since there was no statewide “bingo bill” passed during the most recent legislative session, seeking King’s stamp of approval on the facility’s proposed electronic bingo machines is the city’s “next logical step.”

“Maybe we’re being extremely nave – and I’ve been told that,” Williamson said.

“But we think our law, our ordinance, the machine that we propose to use is in compliance with the laws that currently exist. Like we’ve said in the past, we are continuing to look at all avenues where electronic bingo is concerned and we are certainly not abandoning our pursuit.”

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 that once completed, is expected to create 1,500 jobs.

In March, the Florala Historical Society was granted a bingo permit by Sheriff Dennis Meeks.

The permit is effective March 4, 2010 through March 4, 2011, and 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.

Monday, Williamson did not say if or when developers plan to seek King’s opinion on the proposed machines.