Residents oppose bingo hall

Published 12:28 am Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ferriday — Ferriday residents packed town hall Tuesday to discuss, and mostly shout down, a charity bingo hall, proposed by a group of four investors.

Mayor Glen McGlothin opened the meeting by saying “I’m not bringing these guys out here to hammer them or us to jump on them.”

However, that’s exactly what many of those in attendance did.

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“I’m 76-years-old and I’d pick cotton on my knees before I’d go to that gambling,” Marigene Paul said. “It’s a sin.”

The Rev. Troy Thomas, pastor of Bethel Church in Vidalia and the Rev. Wayne Gray, pastor of First Baptist Church Ferriday, said the bingo parlor would be used by those who do not have much money to begin with.

“Normally it’s not the ones who have money, it’s the one chasing the dream that are throwing it away,” Thomas said.

People always think gambling profits will help them, but they rarely do, Gray said.

“It always seems we never get quite as much as was promised,” Gray said. “I feel like gambling generally exploits those who can afford it the least.”

However, the backers of the hall said that it would benefit the town by giving money to charities, the town, and local businesses and that these groups would make much more money than their company, Big Bucks Bingo LLC.

“Yes, we get a part but it is by far the smallest part,” Rusty Durham, one of the company owners said.

The company expected to have around $8.4 million pass through the bingo hall with $6.2 million of that being returned to the players. Of the remaining 2.2 million, $1.1 million would be given to charities and $436,800 would go to the town. Additional money would go to pay for local advertising and salaries.

Only one attendee spoke in favor of the proposal and the extra income for the town.

“As a practical matter, if it’s going to bring $436,000 to the town annually, I’m in favor of it,” Emerson Slain said. “If they’re going to Natchez or Roxie or Tensas Parish, I’d say let them spend it here.”

McGlothin said he expected the halls backers to get this type of response, because of negative response the issue had drawn in the past.

“I wanted to afford them the opportunity to have their say,” he said.

The special meeting was only to allow public discussion of the issue and no vote was taken. The ordinance cannot be voted on until a regular meeting, which will take place Aug. 12. Also, due to a law recently passed by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, for any new bingo operation to come in, it would have to be done by Aug. 15.

In other business:

4A motion to apply for grants to bring the sewer system up to regulation was passed.

4A motion was passed to honor Marjorie Vogt for her service to the Ferriday Garden Club, the town of Ferriday and the Concordia Parish Libraries.

4The department head salaries were approved based on the budget passed by the previous administration.