White Hall battle begins

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Selma Times-Journal

The legal controversy surrounding the White Hall Gaming Center remains unresolved for now, but the state wants to close the facility as quicky as possible.

At a hearing yesterday in Lowndes County, Circuit Court Judge H. Edward McFerrin denied the state Attorney General Office’s request for a ruling in its lawsuit against the Gaming Center.

The judge instead set a 90-day extension to allow the Gaming Center’s attorneys, J.L. Chestnut Jr. and Prince Darius Chestnut, more time to prepare to defend their client in court.

During arguments before the judge, J.L. Chestnut Jr. said it was &8220;too early&8221; for a decision and he needed more time for depositions and research.

Chestnut also argued that the case was not an &8220;emergency situation&8221; and there was no need to rush for a decision.

McFerrin, however, said he was ready to have this case resolved.

Attorney General Troy King filed a lawsuit in January claiming the constitution amendment that allowed the Gaming Center to be established is invalid.

State Amendment 732, passed and ratified by the state Senate, allowed Lowndes County voters to decided whether they wanted a charity bingo hall in White Hall.

The local law passed and the White Hall Gaming Center was built.

King said the because a nay vote had been cast in the Senate by former Sen. George Callahan, R-Mobile, Lowndes County should never have been allowed to hold a vote on the matter.

A unanimous vote is required to pass a local amendment to the state constitution.

Prince Darius Chestnut, however, said the amendment is now part of state law and the Gaming Center has every right to operate.

White Hall Mayor John Jackson said a hotel and restaurants have considered locating in White Hall because of the Gaming Center.