Developer's Plans on Hold Because of Proposed Bill

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Thursday in Montgomery, a bill was introduced that would put electronic bingo on the ballot in November.

Representative Benjamin Lewis brought it before the House and Senator Harri Anne Smith before to the Senate.

The future of Houston County's Country Crossing Project depends on electronic bingo.

The five-page bill tightens the original amendment that allowed charitable bingo in Houston County, meaning it will only be played on paper cards and not on electronic machines.

The bill is a threat to the project, but developers are staying strong.

Ronnie Gilley has been designing plans for Country Crossing for more than a year now.

He says the planning never ends, and Thursday’s news poses another obstacle. "I was at Travis Tritt's house talking about plans for a country club and then I get the phone call."

That phone call was one telling him about a new bill proposed by State Senator Harri Anne Smith that would give Houston Country residents a chance to vote on electronic bingo and possibly put an end to all future electronic bingo plans in the state.

State Representative Steve Clouse says that he doesn't see a problem with it going through local delegation. "The City Commission deals with city business; the County Commission deals with county business; the state deals with state business and that is what we are doing here; taking care of state business."

More than a decade ago, Houston County residents voted to allow charity bingo operations in their county

Rep. Clouse added, "I think that the people of Houston County approved a measure in 1994. If they are not following the intent of that measure than they have to file al lawsuit. Legislature and the City Commission follow the laws."

Gilley feels the same way. "The proposal to bring it to a vote, to my understanding, Houston County voted on it in 1994,” he said. “The commission already voted to approve the project.”

Gilley was planning on breaking ground in the next couple of months, but this proposed bill is setting him back, and he will not be able to move forward until it is resolved.

He says if electronic bingo is outlawed in Houston County, he will take the project elsewhere.

If the proposed legislation comes up for a vote, it would have to be approved by three-fifths majority in the Senate and the House to pass.

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