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Questions Surround Country Crossing

Enthusiasm Runs High But Skies Are Clouded Above New Entertainment Complex
Country Crossing's opening this week has been a long-anticipated event for a lot of people involved in the project as well as the thousands expected to flood the entertainment complex Tuesday afternoon when the gates swing open. Now the question is  "Could what began as a dream for some end in a nightmare"?

The part of the mega-million dollar development at issue is the bingo pavilion with over 1700 electronic gambling gadgets. Mechanisms Governor Riley claims could be illegal but ones developers and elected leaders assert are as legal as George Jones is country.

A bingo hall west of Montgomery recently shut its doors in light of a State Supreme Court ruling on what constitutes bingo. The ruling pertained to White Hall Gaming Center but could influence other gambling venues including Country Crossing and Victoryland. A spokesperson for the governor said if the machines at Country Crossing are legal then there will be no problems. "If that's the case its good news and we'll wish them the best," said Press Secretary Todd Stacy. "They'll have to comply (with the law)," claims Stacy who said he could not comment on what a task force formed by Riley almost a year ago could be planning. There has been speculation that state agents, on orders from Riley, could raid and confiscate machines at Country Crossing, Victoryland, and Greenetrack. The latter is another bingo machine operation between Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. Greentrack boasts on its website it has over 1500 Las Vegas-style gaming machines.

Houston County Commission Chairman Mark Culver is among leaders who say the machines at Country Crossing are legal. "We're going to make sure they (the machines) conform to state law," Culver has said repeatedly. While media has not been allowed in the Country Crossing Bingo Pavilion those who have been inside say the machines look like popular slot machines though the way they function may be far different than a traditional one-armed bandit.

Culver and others have questioned the governor's attack on bingo operations in the state and one hopeful to win the job now held by Riley has suggested the governor's actions could be directly related to a multi-million dollar contribution  from the Choctaw Indians. The Native American tribe operates two casinos north of Meridian, Mississippi. Riley has said he never accepted the money.

While a cloud of uncertainty may hang over bingo at Country Crossing it isn't expected to dampen enthusiasm.  Traffic could be backed up several miles as flood the grounds to get their first glimpse.  The facility, which includes an amphitheater and themed restaurants, will be open 24 hours a day with the exception of Sunday morning.
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