Southern Entertainment closes

Published 5:09 pm Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Southern Star Entertainment Center has closed its doors. -- File photo

WHITE HALL — A little more than a month after it opened, the Southern Star Entertainment Center announced it would close the doors to its bingo and restaurant operation immediately.

In a statement released Wednesday, General Manager Wesley Clark said, “We deeply regret it was necessary to lay off our hard working employees. We are simply unable to compete against Native American facilities when we are limited to conducting only paper bingo operations. We are hopeful that the political environment will change next year and the people of Alabama will be given the opportunity to cast their vote regarding electronic bingo machines. We are committed to continuing our efforts to bring significant job opportunities to the citizens of this fine community.”

The site opened in early August and scores of people filed into the new Lowndes County-based casino to try their hands at paper bingo.

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At the time Clark described the paper bingo cards and interactive tabletop computer bingo machines as “just like traditional bingo.”

The White Hall Enrichment Advancement Team, a nonprofit organization, owns the center.

At the time of the August opening, Southern Star employed about 25 people in its bingo and restaurant operation.

WHEAT had planned a second phase that would have included 150 jobs, a 40,000-square-foot building with a 100-room hotel.

Initially, casino officials intended to use electronic bingo machines but “backed off” to see what would happen after other casinos were raided, Clark said.

A neighboring casino, White Hall Entertainment Center, closed its doors earlier this year after the state raided it and declared its operation illegal. The move left about 200 people unemployed.

After White Hall closed and before Southern Star opened, people from this area traveled to Atmore to Wind Creek Casino & Resort or Creek Casino, operated by the Poarch Creek tribe.

Additionally, bingo is played at Riverside Entertainment Center in Wetumpka and at Tallapoos Casino in Montgomery, also operated by the Poarch Creek tribe.

Poarch Creek Indians are descendants of a segment of the original Creek Nation. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians is the only federally recognized tribe in the state. It operates as a sovereign nation with its own system of government and bylaws, which allows it to have casinos offer games allowed elsewhere in the state or games the state has agreed to.