Former Surfside Beach mayor opens bingo hall in Myrtle Beach

dbryant@thesunnews.comOctober 10, 2012 

— A bingo hall giving away cash prizes has opened in downtown Myrtle Beach, organized by a former Surfside Beach mayor.

Beach Bingo, at 819 N. Kings Highway in what’s known as the Superblock area, called its first numbers about two weeks ago after a nearly yearlong process getting a zoning change and obtaining the necessary licenses.

The hall – with former Surfside Beach mayor Allen Deaton serving as the promoter and in partnership with the VFW in Florence, which has a state bingo license – has games from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with players able to purchase traditional paper games or use computers that scan multiple cards at once. Jackpots range from $20 to $150.

The operation, by the fountain in Nance Plaza, aims to invoke the tradition of bingo in Myrtle Beach dating back to the days of Sloppy Joe’s, which operated more than a half century ago where Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum now sits, where players used corn kernels to block off the numbers on their cards when they were called, said Deaton, who is a Myrtle Beach native.

“It’s a Myrtle Beach tradition,” he said. “It’s part of the culture of Myrtle Beach back in the day.”

Bingo is a popular pastime along the Grand Strand, which has at least 10 halls that are licensed by the S.C. Department of Revenue. Beach Bingo is the second hall in the city of Myrtle Beach; I-17 Bingo off Northgate Drive operates near the back gate intersection.

Beach Bingo moved into an area that’s aiming to revitalize, especially by filling the row of empty stores along Ninth Avenue North. First United Methodist Church, which is less than a block away from Beach Bingo, wishes a more family-friendly operation had moved in, administrator Ron Carpenter said.

“Obviously we are not thrilled about it but we are going to make the best of it,” he said. “We want to see things that present a better image of Myrtle Beach, a more wholesome image of Myrtle Beach.”

And if the hall becomes popular, parking could be a problem, Carpenter said. Beach Bingo doesn’t have a parking lot, only on-street spaces and the paid parking at the Pavilion garage across Kings Highway.

Dave Sebok, executive director of the Myrtle Beach Downtown Redevelopment Corp., said the bingo hall is a compatible use and could inject more life into the area in the afternoons and evenings.

“It’s an innovative approach,” he said.

The state regulates bingo, only issuing bingo licenses to non-profits, who share in the revenues and taxes paid on the games. The non-profits often pair with a promoter who oversees the operation, in this case Deaton.

The VFW in Florence, which previously operated a hall in Florence that closed a couple of years ago, still had the bingo license and was looking to again partner on a new hall, and found out about Deaton’s venture through the state, the VFW’s Bill Hunt said.

“It looked like a good opportunity,” he said, adding that the VFW will use its share of money from the bingo operation to support veterans through support groups, free meals and other programs. “It will do at least as well as it did in Florence. I like his location and his management.”

Deaton has owned this spot on Kings Highway for more than 30 years, once running a karate, gymnastics and dance studio there. For the past 17 years, Agape Christian Fellowship had operate there until it moved to 2133 N. Kings Highway earlier this year.

Deaton said he spent about $60,000 updating the building, buying equipment and in other startup costs for the hall, which can hold about 200 players. Beach Bingo aims to operate year-round and plans to partner with area hotels to send tourists its way. Deaton anticipates the busiest time is coming up with the influx of snowbirds for the winter.

“It’s got a lot of potential,” Deaton said. “This is the ideal thing to tap into the more mature market.”

Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296 or at dbryant@thesunnews.com or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_dawnbryant.

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