The Catawba Indian Nation wants to bring what could become high-stakes bingo to Decker Boulevard.
Tribal leaders are looking into taking over an existing bingo hall in the struggling retail corridor in the Dentsville area.
Payouts of up to $100,000 are possible, but the games would start with much smaller prizes, Chief Donald Rodgers said Wednesday.
The site is the tribe's top choice after proposals were rejected in four other South Carolina communities, he said.
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The plan has the support of Richland County Councilman Jim Manning of Forest Acres. But some leaders in nearby neighborhoods are undecided.
If County Council gives the go-ahead, the Catawbas would take over one of two bingo halls in a shopping center at Decker and Trenholm roads. A decision on local approval is slated to come before council Tuesday.
A 1993 agreement between the Catawbas and state officials allows the tribe to have two halls - one on former tribal land near Rock Hill and the other anywhere, as long as state and local officials approve.
Catawba leaders are turning to the Columbia area after being turned down in North Myrtle Beach, Santee, Orangeburg and Rock Hill.
Manning hopes the high-stakes games will be a boost for an area with empty stores after retailers moved to newer commercial areas along Two Notch Road.
He said he's willing to see whether this type of gaming can help spur redevelopment the community has long awaited. "It's a business like any other," he said.
Two bingo halls - the smaller operation offering prizes of up to a few thousand dollars and the larger hall offering smaller amounts - operate in the shopping center. The Catwabas would take over the smaller, higher-stakes hall.
Neither of the two halls is a nuisance, neighborhood leaders say.
But there is concern about possible side effects, such as traffic congestion and increased crime, in living with what could become a gaming Mecca that attracts players from a 100-mile vicinity.
"If they go high stakes, that may put a different spin on it," said Wallace Wright, president of the nearby Greater Woodfield Community Association.
Wayne Kirby, operator of Carolina Gold Bingo, said Catawba representatives approached him a few months ago about taking control of his hall.
"That's not a done deal," he said. "It hasn't been finalized."
But Rodgers said his site is the tribe's top choice.
"I'm hoping it won't be long" before it's under Catawba management, he said.
The OK for the tribe's plan could come as soon as Tuesday, when County Council is scheduled to take it up.
Momentum for it developed quietly as tribal leaders put together their proposal.
"It could be a good thing," Councilwoman Kit Smith of Columbia said. "It's a question of whether the neighborhood feels it's a good fit."
Chief Rodgers praised county leaders, particularly Manning, for "cooperation and encouragement."
The hall initially will employ up to 75 people, he said.
The Catawbas - the state's only federally recognized tribe - plan to use the bingo proceeds for other development.