Bingo dies for lack of motion by town council

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 1, 2008

FERRIDAY — It’s bing-no, again.

The Ferriday Town Council had a special meeting Thursday with only one item on the agenda — to introduce an ordinance that would allow electronic bingo in the city limits.

But that never happened, because none of the aldermen made a motion to introduce the ordinance, a non-response that drew applause, cheers and hallelujah’s from the crowd packing the council chambers.

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Aldermen Elijah Banks, Jerome Harris and Gloria Lloyd called the meeting.

Bingo became an issue for the second time in less than two years when the owners of Big Bucks Bingo LLC. approached Mayor Glen McGlothin about the possibility of opening a bingo hall in Ferriday.

The possibility was discussed — and met strong public opposition — at a special meeting July 22.

When the meeting opened, McGlothin reminded those present that it was not a public hearing, and said he understood it was an emotional issue.

“I have been to town meetings where they had to lead people out, and I don’t want to have to lead anyone out,” McGlothin said.

Alderman Johnnie Brown said as a council member and as a minister he had some concerns.

“My concern is whatever we do is in the best interest of the community,” Brown said.

Brown then asked McGlothin what his feelings were about the issue.

McGlothin expressed some doubts about the amount of revenue the proposed bingo hall would generate.

“(The people who brought the proposal) said they would bring in $8.4 million,” McGlothin said. “I have lived here all my life, and I haven’t seen that kind of money all my life.”

McGlothin said he was also concerned about the effect it might have on the poor who might use the hall, McGlothin said.

Another reason McGlothin said he had reservations about the ordinance is because it did not appear to have very much popular support, he said.

“If there are a lot of people who do (support it), I haven’t seen them yet,” McGlothin said.

Though it was not public hearing, a number of people from the community were allowed to speak.

The Rev. Charles Minor put the council members on the spot when he said Christians should be opposed to gambling, and then asked them to raise their hands if they were Christians.

When all of the council members did so, Minor said, “So we’re not even worried about this, are we?”

The Rev. Larry Wagoner called the projected revenue streams from bingo “deception.”

“There are people coming in here saying they are going to bring life, liberty and happiness to Ferriday (with bingo),” Wagoner said. “Who has deceived you into believing this is the thing Ferriday needs?”

Vidalia resident Susan Rabb stood and read statements from Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland and Concordia Parish Sheriff Randy Maxwell opposing the ordinance.

Rabb did so, she said, because, “This is not a Ferriday issue, this is a community issue. It is going to affect more than Ferriday.”

Police juror Jerry Beatty also voiced opposition to the proposal.

“We voted parish-wide against video poker,” Beatty said. “I don’t think we should revisit (the issue of video gaming) because someone wants to beat a deadline.”

Any new video bingo licenses have to be in place before Aug. 15 because of a moratorium signed in the recent legislative session.

There were no other items on the agenda, and so the meeting was adjourned.

Both Brown and McGlothin said they wanted to see the level of public participation at regular meetings as they saw Thursday.

“We need citizens, the Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club, everyone to support us in our efforts to move the community forward,” Brown said. “We are eventually going to put this behind us, but we need you to stay behind us once we do that.”