Wednesday, January 06, 2010

6 JAN 10: B-I-N-Government-Operated?

Now I know the economy is bad! About 225 layoffs were announced Tuesday at an unexpected place -- Victoryland. I didn't realize that many people were being allowed to hit jackpots at the slot machines....

The timing of this announcement was amazing, because a blog reader sent e-mail the other day about Victoryland. It was in response to one of the "25 things I didn't know," listed here Monday:

You mentioned the various rules that restaurants in Columbus must obey in order to have poker nights (i.e., can't play for money, etc.). Why is it that the senior centers in Columbus (operated by city government) are allowed to have bingo games every week in which there are monetary jackpots? And seniors play card games in these centers for money every day. Then there are the city sponsored bus trips for these seniors at their centers to Victoryland in Shorter, Alabama every month so the seniors can go there to gamble (not much else to do at Victoryland except gamble on their 6,000 slot machines). I wonder how many thousands of dollars leave Columbus every month by way of these trips. (By the way the buses are always full!) But I guess all this is OK because it's city sponsored rather than free enterprise sponsored.

Do you see what this message is claiming? It's claiming Columbus tax dollars are paying for gambling -- not only on junkets, but right here in town. Does the Vice Squad need to move to the Frank Chester Recreation Center, and replace the officers stationed there now?

But the director of the Gallops Senior Center told me Tuesday these accusations are NOT true. Mary Ann Johnson admitted her center has bingo games twice a week, but noted all the money involved comes from the players. That's why you've never seen Mayor Jim Wetherington at a senior center, handing out $5,000 checks.

It's downright cheap to play bingo at the Gallops Senior Center. Mary Ann Johnson says it costs only 25 cents a card. Compare that with the Columbus-Fort Benning Shrine Club, which doesn't post prices on its web site - and the downtown Phenix City American Legion post, which won't even admit hosting card games at all.

Mary Ann Johnson told me she checked with state officials a couple of years ago, to make sure 25-cent bingo was legal. She says the Gallops Senior Center is well under the limit for "big money" bingo games, like the Shriners play. I'd be happy simply to win a souvenir fez....

Win a basic bingo game at the Gallops Senior Center, and you might take home 50 cents. Win the top-dollar "cover-all" game, and the jackpot might be as high as nine bucks -- which means you'd still have to add money for dessert and a tip, to cover a victory dinner at Red Lobster.

The Gallops Senior Center indeed has weekly card games, such as Monday afternoon canasta. Mary Ann Johnson says the center does NOT pay money at those games -- so if anyone heads home with a fatter wallet, it's happening "under the table." And if older people are passing cash under tables, they're risking serious arthritis flare-ups.

So what about those bus trips to Victoryland? Mary Ann Johnson says those are NOT "city-sponsored" - but Gallops Senior Center members pay for the charter buses which travel to Shorter. One center staff member rides along, to make sure everyone is safe. The staff does NOT provide coaching about how to bet on greyhounds.

(That reminds me - have you noticed no one talks about greyhound racing at Victoryland anymore? It still takes place several days a week. One race Monday had a dog named "Www Britt Hume." It looks like Hume needs to tell someone else about turning to Jesus.)

Mary Ann Johnson indicated a city van was used at first for trips to Victoryland - but then the senior center found members were willing to pay for the charter buses. And yes, she says the buses leave Columbus full. How many pocketbooks come back empty, we can only guess....

If someone has proof of illegal gambling at a senior center, we invite you to send it to us -- but keep one thing in mind. One year from now, Jim Wetherington will be retired from public service and free to do his own undercover investigations there.

Back at Victoryland, owner Milton McGregor says the layoffs announced Tuesday should be only temporary. He plans to renovate the complex. You don't have to go that far, sir - simply clear space in one corner for a poker room.

Meanwhile, there was a stunning development Tuesday night about another Alabama entertainment spot. The Dothan Eagle reported Country Crossing closed its doors, because state agents planned to raid the electronic bingo hall at around 3:30 a.m. Local officials were concerned, of course -- since nothing normally happens in Dothan between 1:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m..

-> There's a new downtown nightspot for playing weekly live poker. Read our thoughts about it at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: Another reader wants to comment on a more serious news item of recent days....

I just want to put in a plug for the local Red Cross chapter..What a blessing they have been to the victims of the Cooper Creek on Sunday night...From the vouchers for food and clothing to the encouragement you have given, thanks ..Columbus should be proud of our organization...

My wall heater is running safely so far, during this cold wave. But as I wrote this entry Tuesday night, the tall metal cover decided to shake itself loose and topple over into the living room. Maybe one or two cockroaches still are hiding near the pilot light.

BIG BLOG BOWL BLOWOUT: Tuesday night's bowl game found Iowa edging Georgia Tech 24-14 in the Orange Bowl, so the season.... what?! You're asking why I waited so late to start a special feature on bowl games? Because I didn't think of a clever tongue-twister title until Tuesday night, that's why.

A Georgia Tech running back made unusual Orange Bowl history. Anthony Allen scored a touchdown, three years after scoring two at that same game for Louisville. Allen was a "two-timer" in the old-fashioned way - as opposed to Texas Tech players turning on their head coach.

But Georgia Tech was stymied most of the night by a tough Iowa defense. One senior Hawkeye linebacker was Pat Angerer. With a last name like that, it wouldn't make sense for him to be a punter.

At least one Columbus resident plays in the Georgia Tech marching band. But you never saw it, because Fox focused on the halftime show with Kool and the Gang. Considering the temperature in Miami was in the forties, it should have been renamed Kold and the Gang for one night.

On top of that, Georgia Tech fans in Columbus couldn't hear Wes Durham root for the Yellow Jackets on radio. WHAL decided to air the Georgia Tech-Georgia men's basketball game instead. That sneaky Georgia coaching staff frustrated Tech fans not once, but twice -- by actually beating the distracted Jackets 73-66.

Tonight's big bowl game is in Mobile, as Troy tangles with Central Michigan. Since it occurs one day before the Bowl Championship Series title game, does the winner get to claim it's number-three in the nation?

If Alabama Governor Bob Riley declared this GMAC Bowl Day, I didn't hear about it. Instead, he's declared this Mark Ingram Day - in honor of Alabama's Heisman Trophy winner. Trouble is, the coaching staff would rather Thursday be Mark Ingram Night....

Our special coverage continues Thursday. Keep working on our title in the meantime, while we check Tuesday's other news:

+ WRBL reported a 15-year-old was arrested in the skateboard-whacking of Columbus attorney Richard Hagler. Now I'm wondering if another teenager will get the $1,000 reward money - and how many months of iPhone service that will cover for him.

+ Chambers County authorities reported someone cut off lengthy "pony tails" from several horses. This is strange for several reasons. For one thing, I didn't think Bumpits were so expensive that women had to resort to this....

+ WRBL reported the Phenix City Council approved new devices to adjust traffic lights on Broad Street, and reduce long lines of cars. They're known as "traffic detection loops" - which are different from some Councilors, which critics consider "fruit loops."

+ WLTZ warned about the dangers of radon from an enclosed home - and explained on the screen radon gas is a leading cause of "lunch cancer." This certainly was stunning news to me. I thought I'd escaped lunch cancer by giving up cold cut sandwiches.

(Before the WTVM staff laughs too hard at that - their evening newscasts showed the Muscogee County Sheriff's name as "John Dar." Did he cut his name by 25 percent to save money?!)

+ WTVM reporter Elizabeth White announced online that she's pregnant for the second time. It looks like we've found the first fringe benefit of the cold wave....

+ Phenix City Central collared Kendrick in boys' basketball 77-57. The game was played at Central's nice new gym - which proves either it's available or everyone in the school district, or Central's team entirely consists of freshmen.

+ Instant Message to Aflac: You certainly fooled me. I mean, that new billboard on Wynnton Road promoting "You Don't Know Quack." I thought that sign was put up by Geico, because it won that insurance deal with Wal-Mart.

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