Bingo Bill May Cause A Big Job Loss

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Last week, lawmakers in Alabama introduced companion bills that could affect the proposed Country Crossing Entertainment Complex by eliminating electronic bingo.

If there is no electronic bingo, the project will not take off.

In a News 4 exclusive with Ronnie Gilley, the developer tells us what he feels the county will miss out on if the project is passed up.

It is a fact that if this plan falls through, the county will miss out on hundreds if not thousands of jobs. Some citizens say it's a great opportunity, while others think that it isn't a fair gamble.

"If the project doesn't take place, it will be a huge loss for the Wiregrass," said.

After State Senator Harri Ann Smith introduced a bill that could outlaw electronic bingo in Houston County, Country Crossing developers and investors are trying to make the public aware of what the development can do for the area.

The project is expected to boost jobs and activity in the Wiregrass, and that, Country Crossing proponents say, will be beneficial for the future economy.

"If you turn the news on, the country is in somewhat of a recession to say the least,” Gilley continued. “Every time you turn it on, you hear job losses here and job losses there, and obviously, job losses cause crime and other unfortunate circumstances throughout our community. But the credit market would prohibit this project without the charitable bingo."

Gilley says electronic bingo is an unorthodox way to boost economic development. "We can only spend so much on manufacturing companies and only the state can allocate tax money, tax incentives, and cash incentives to solicit these companies to do business in Alabama."

Some Houston County residents say it will be an asset to the community with the added jobs and money for education.

Troy University Assistant Professor Mike Rippy said, "If it’s regulated, I feel it will be ok. It’s just bingo, not a casino or something like that."

However, others feel gambling is wrong no matter who it helps.

Benny Butler, who works in Houston County said, "Socially, economically, it'll probably be a benefit to our county and increase jobs, but if it brings down moral status to the neighborhood or out county, what good is it?”

Gilley says he feels a majority of citizens in Houston County embrace the development, but if the issue shows up on the November ballot, opinions could change, and it’s hard to say what the climate of the investor pool will be like at that time.

If electronic bingo isn't allowed in Houston County, Ronnie Gilley Properties will move the development to another location.

There are several counties in Florida interested in the project and even one other location in Alabama.

But until then, they are committed to making the project happen in Houston County.