Southern Star “bingo” opens

Published 8:07 am Friday, October 17, 2014

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal
The sign at Southern Star Entertainment on U.S. 80 in White Hall last Thursday night proclaimed, “OPEN – BINGO, October, 16, 2014.” And Lowndes County Commission Chairman Robert Harris said, Friday, he thinks it’s great.
“I think that it is great,” Harris said, “because of people going back to work and being able to provide for their family and possibly getting off of governmental services that are offered.”
Harris said he thought it should have been done. And he said, “If you could see by how many people were there, you could see that people are excited about it… they think that it is good.”
Ester Jackson, director of WHEAT Charity (White Hall Enrichment Advancement Team), which operates Southern Star, said, “We are opening with these machines that they are using down in Houston County, which is Dothan.” She said, “Dothan has been open for the past two years and nothing has happened. Greene County has been open for some time and they are using the same machines.”
Jackson said, “So, we thought that it would be good for the people of Lowndes County to open with those same machines since nothing has happened with them and let the people go back to work.”
She said, “These people have been put out of work for two years and right now, we are hoping that everything is good with our machines, no one has said that they are illegal, hopefully we can stay open.”
She said WHEAT has programs for children, tutoring, enrichment and scholarships for the graduating seniors of Lowndes County.
The sign at Southern Star also announces that bingo is open Sunday through Thursday 12 p.m. to 12 a.m., Friday, 12 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Saturday 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. and reads, “OPEN – BINGO,” “7 DAYS A WEEK,” “Operated by W.H.E.A.T. charity.”
The Lowndes Signal reported in November of 2012 that Attorney General Luther Strange announced that a search warrant was served at Southern Star casino in the Lowndes County town of White Hall by law enforcement agents from the Attorney General’s Office and the Alabama Department of Public Safety.
The Lowndes County Sheriff also provided security for the execution of the search warrant.
“Today’s actions are the culmination of an investigative process over the last several months,” said Attorney General Strange at that time. “From my first day in office, I have worked to ensure that illegal gambling laws are enforced consistently across the state.”
Southern Star opened in early August 2010, but was closed down just over a month later in September 2010. The Southern Star casino, re-opened earlier in 2012 year with so-called “electronic bingo” machines that state law enforcement agents determined were illegal.
Edna and Charles Vasser of Selma had a positive view of the opening of Southern Star, Friday.
“I think it’s great,” Edna said. Charles added, “I think it is good for the state. I think it brings money in for the state tax bases.”
Charles said they happened to be headed to Montgomery today and saw the sign.
Eddie Fuller, also of Selma, said after exiting the Southern Star that the machines were the same as those he’d seen before. “It’s the same darn machines there. It works the say way,” he said.
Fuller did not know how the machines paid because he didn’t play, but just looked.
The Lowndes Signal reached out to the Attorney General’s Office, but was told there is “no comment.” Also, Lowndes County Sheriff John Williams declined to comment.

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