DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) – Center Stage Alabama could be forced to close if a gambling expansion bill is passed as that bill would repeal a constitutional amendment that legalizes bingo in Houston County.
We are concerned that the bill will essentially be closed (Center Stage), ”Houston County chairman Mark Culver told WTVY Thursday.
However, after consulting with heads of state, State Senator Donnie Chesteen (R-Geneva) said he believed a closure would be brief. He believes Center Stage, with its electronic bingo machines, is likely to reopen quickly under the authority of a government gambling commission proposed in the bill.
The measure introduced this week by Senator Del Marsh (R-Anniston) would benefit the state's four greyhound tracks and tribal casinos, which would win slots, table games and sports betting.
The Poarch Creek Indians would also add a fourth Wind Creek Casino in northern Alabama, near the Tennessee and Georgia state lines. The tribe currently operates electronic bingo casinos in Atmore, Montgomery and Wetumpka.
However, Marsh's plan includes the Wiregrass region, where Center Stage is the only game option.
"We are working diligently with our local (legislative) delegation to bring about a change that would include wiregrass in Senate Act 214. Our area is uniquely located in the southeast corner of Alabama, far from other proposed locations," Center Stage said in a statement it emailed.
It is estimated that millions of dollars and over 6,000 direct and indirect jobs are at stake.
Marsh said Thursday he would consider adding two more casinos to his legislative package, which is estimated to raise an estimated $ 500 million for the state, but there is no indication that Center Stage would be considered.
His bill, which also provides for a state-run lottery, is awaiting a Senate vote when lawmakers return to session on February 22nd. If it is passed, the measure would go into the house.
60 percent of the legislators in both chambers have to vote for the law in order to push ahead with the constitutional amendment to a referendum, which should take place no later than 2022.
In addition to Houston County, a few other counties would also lift their bingo changes if the bill is passed as worded.
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