Creator: Detroit Free Press
Description: This is a newspaper article from the Detroit Free Press entitled, "Bingo windfall in plans for fair".
Original Format: Newspaper Clipping
Relation: Historic Little Rock Missionary Baptist Church
Contributor: Kamilah Stinnett
Transcript: Bingo windfall in plans for fair
(Racetrack backer's church may benefit from big charity hall) by Tina Lam
A hug new bingo hall planned for the State Fairgrounds in Detroit will benefit the church of a minister who has been a vocal supporter of a controversial racetrack there.
Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show the Nederlander group plans to turn an exhibit hall near the main entrance of the Mighican State Fairgrounds into a bingo hall that can hold 2,500 people.
It's the first indication of the bingo hall in any records to date.
Rev. Loyce Lester of the Original New Grace Missionary Baptist Church has preliminary approval for a bingo license there. Lester wouldn't talk about the bingo arrangement Friday. "I'm not giving any interviews about it," he said. A spokesman for fairgrounds developer Joseph Nederlander, also declined comment.
Several months ago, Lester was accused by another minister of being paid off for his support of the racetrack, a highly emotional issue that led to a lawsuit field by neighboring churches, residents and several cities--including Detroit. Lester insisted he wasn't getting any money.
"They have not given me one dime," he told the Free Press in mid-May. "I've not even asked them to buy a ticket to the fund-raisers at our church. If they can help us improve this community...that's enough for me."
But state records show Nederlander, doing business as State Fair Development Group LLC applied for a state license May 8 to hold bingo games at the fairgrounds' 25,000-square-foot exhibit hall, near the entrance at Woodward. Drawings for the hall, which is being refurbished and is scheduled to open for bingo in October, show areas for counting money, a stage, a kitchen and parking for 9,000 cars.
Such games can only be run by, and benefit, a charity. Also on May 8, Lester signed a separate license application for his church to run charitable bingo. Records from the state's charitable gaming division show he has been approved for two licenses, which would allow his church to run the bingo and get the proceeds twice a week.
More bingo is possible there. Bob Blessings, licensing director of the state's Charitable Gaming Division, said the hall could have bingo daily between 8 a.m. and 2 a.m. Licensing isn't complete, it's not yet clear how many days bingo will be played at the hall.
In addition to Lester, the Rev, Jim Holley of Little Rock Baptist Church and the Rev. Johnnie Jordan of Greater Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church have backed the racetrack and fairgrounds development.
Holley said Friday that Lester was working with other churches, including Greater Mt. Olive, to run the bingo hall at the fairgrounds. "He's trying to make sure other churches benefit," Holley said, adding that he won't take part because he opposes gambling. Jordan couldn't be reached.
Thirteen bingo games operate in Detroit now, most run on morning or evening weekly in a church or organization's hall. Most are small.
The fairgrounds' exhibit hall would likely be the largetst bingo hall in the city, about a third the size of the MGM Grand Detroit Casino. A charity bingo game is a popular part of the state fair each year, but runs only during the fair's two weeks.
Charitable gaming is big business in Michigan. Last year, bingo games, millionaire parties and raffles brought in $322 million. After prizes and other expenses, $62 million went to the charities that ran them.
In April, Nederlander announced a privately-financed $200-million makeover for the state-owned fairgrounds, with Holley, Jordan and Lester there in support. The ministers said the area desperately needs upgrading. Opponents say noise from the track and outdoor concerts would hurt the residential area.
Nederlander leased the fairgrounds from the state for 50 years and plans six theaters, the track, and outdoor concert venue, an equestrian center and a children's theater.
None of the information available about the project mentions the bingo hall. Nederlander has promised to help Lester's church build as many as 600 homes and apartments nearby, and bring restaurants, hotels and stores to the neighborhood.
Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer has said legislators and lobbyists misled him when he agreed to support the fairgrounds lease to Nederlander, because they didn't tell him it included a racetrack.
Eugene Driker, attorney for Archer and other who filed suit against the developer's racetrack plans, said he has never heard a word about the bingo hall. "The fact they've kept it secret speaks volumes about their sensitivity in letting neighbors know what's coming to their neighborhood," he said.
Driker said the fairgrounds, meant for recreation, shouldn't be home to gambling.
"I knew it; I knew it," said Mario Morrow, chairman of the Palmer Woods Neighborhood Association, which opposes the track, when told of the bingo hall. "It appears this isn't about economic development, but about personal gain and greed," he said.
Curtis Dickerson, cochairman of Int-County Citizens Achieve