New Casino Opens in Alabama

A 17-story casino hotel being built by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians near Atmore rises out of the rolling farmlands and pine forests of south Alabama. It's an eye-catching tower for the stream of travelers on Interstate 65.

To make sure drivers don't miss the casino exit, a 65-foot-high electronic sign will beckon them to the site, which tribal leaders hope will gain a reputation as a destination resort.

The casino is to be filled with 1,600 electronic bingo games in halls enlivened by the flashing lights and ringing bells of a Las Vegas-style gambling palace.

But that kind of high-stakes gambling still isn't allowed in Alabama -- on or off tribal land, at least not yet -- a divisive issue for years between state officials and Alabama's only federally recognized American Indian tribe.

Still, the hotel's gleaming glass tower looming over the rural landscape has raised expectations that the tribe's investment will pay off.

Real estate agent Ann Gordon, whose office is near the hotel, says she expects the tribe's Wind Creek Casino & Hotel and a city-owned business park planned across Highway 21 from the hotel will create the type of interstate-exit growth familiar around the United States.

The new Atmore casino on a 35-acre site is expected to open in January, followed by the 236-room hotel in February.

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(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-10-05-08 1212EDT

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