The bingo hall, housed in a small cinder-block building on Martin Luther King Drive, sits a short walk from the site of Hobson City’s former bingo hall, which burned several years ago.
Mayor Alberta McCrory said at the grand opening that it is good news for her town.
“It’s created some jobs and it will bring in some revenue for the city. It’s a legitimate business, and we hope people will come out and support it,” McCrory said.
Larry Rogers, the South Carolina businessman opening the bingo hall, had planned to use electronic bingo machines. He chose instead to use paper bingo after the Calhoun County District Attorney disapproved of the electronic machines, saying they’re illegal to operate in the county.
Paper bingo is legal in Calhoun County, but bingo operators have to provide at least 10 percent of their proceeds to charitable or educational purposes.
Rogers said I-20 Bingo has chosen the Anniston nonprofit Community Enabler Developer, which operates the Sable Learning Center, an after-school and summer program for children in Hobson City.
Maudine Holloway, director of Community Enabler Developer, said any money received from the bingo hall will go to help care for the children at the center.
“We can’t even get the Internet there, because we just can’t afford it,” Holloway said of the center’s need for additional funds. “We’re working with our kids and they’re doing good, but it’s a struggle.”
Each day after school around 18 students come to the center, where they receive help with homework and take part in enrichment activities.
The center receives some funding from the city of Oxford and from the United Way, but each year it’s a struggle to keep the center running, Holloway said.
“It helps the parents of those children to know that they are safe,” McCrory said of the center. “ … So this is a good thing.”
Just before the first game had begun, Alexandria resident Joann McRath said she used to play at the old bingo hall before it burned.
“It’s been a while since I’ve played, because I’ve been working all the time,” McRath said. “I’ve got to work tomorrow, too, but I decided to come here tonight.”
By 4:30 p.m. about two dozen players were seated around the many tables inside the hall, workers milling about with bingo cards and blotters.
One such worker expressed gratitude at the opportunity the hall has provided her.
“I needed this job,” said Lee Whitman, adding that she used to work at a bingo hall in Piedmont before it closed several years ago. “For three years I had nothing.”
Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.