Walkout means bingo hall will close for a bit

IUKA – The mass exit of Riverhills Bingo employees resulted in the facility’s closing for a few weeks, but reopening is planned later this month.
The temporary closing of Riverhills Bingo raised questions about whether scholarships and grants it supported would continue, but resuming bingo operations on July 26 assures that Tri State Educational Foundation commitments can be met, said Riverhills founder Bob Ferguson.
“We’re going to try to keep on doing what we’ve been doing,” he said.
Northpoint Bingo opened Monday night in a location on Mississippi Business Highway 25 in Iuka that was formerly the location of Iuka Ford.
Manager Shawn Phelps formerly managed Riverhills Bingo and was executive director of the Tri State Educational Foundation. When he left Riverhills Bingo, he took the employees with him.
In a letter to the editor in the Tishomingo County News, Ferguson said the foundation would try to “honor all active scholarship and grant awards through their obligated timeline,” despite the administrative disruption.
He said the short notice he received of Phelps’ departure forced the temporary closing until he could recruit and hire new staff.
“We’ll be in the same place with a whole new staff and executive director,” Ferguson said. “We’re basically offering the same games that will support scholarships and grants in the area.”
Tri State Educational Foundation was granted tax-exempt status in 1999 through efforts of Ferguson, retired superintendent of Tishomingo County Schools, and his wife, Sylvia Ferguson, a retired teacher.
According to a 2007 press release, between 2000 and 2007 the Tri State Educational Foundation had awarded more than $4 million in scholarships that went to Tishomingo County students and students in surrounding counties.
Under state law, bingo operations must support a charity, and the charity supported by Northpoint Bingo is the Mississippi Community Education Center based in Jackson, said Sonny Weathersby, Mississippi Gaming Commission director of charitable gaming.
Neither Phelps nor the charity’s executive director could be reached for comment Tuesday.
However, the agency’s website describes MCEC as “a nonprofit organization dedicated to the educational, economic and wellness needs of Mississippi families.”

Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal