ELIZABETHTOWN — Economic development in Bladen County is cashing in on a good night at the tables.
This weekend, Cape Fear Vineyard & Winery was host to the first-ever Casino Night, sponsored by the Committee of 100 and Bladen’s Bloomin’. Around 150 people turned out with their best poker faces, but it was all in good fun.
“We weren’t playing with real money,” said Bladen County Economic Development Commission Director Chuck Heustess.
For a $40 ticket, guests were given $1,500 in chips. Games included Texas Hold ‘Em, Craps, Roulette, a Money Wheel, and Blackjack. At the end of the evening, any chips left over were turned in for raffle tickets. Folks won items donated by area merchants, such as gift certificates to clothing stores, a rifle, and a voucher for detailing a boat up to 25 feet.
For some, the night was a foray into the unknown.
“I don’t know how to play any of these games, so I’m just watching for now until I can get the hang of it,” said Linwood Davis as he and his girlfriend observed a game of Texas Hold ‘Em. “Even though it’s not real money, I still don’t like the thought of losing.”
“And I want to win that gun,” he added.
Though Davis didn’t win the gun, his — and a lot of other peoples’ — luck at the tables held through the night.
“It seemed to be a lucky night,” observed Heustess. “Of course, when you go to a fake casino and it’s not your money, everybody’s lucky.”
The night wasn’t just about fundraising and fun, though. Each purchase of two tickets also bought a year-long membership into the Committee of 100.
“The night really gave us a chance to mingle and talk to a lot of folks about the Committee of 100 and Bladen’s Bloomin’ and the work we do to bring facilities and companies to Bladen County,” said Heustess. “They may have heard of us, but they weren’t sure what we did. The night was not only fun, but also gave us exposure to a whole new broad group of folks that we hope will become long-term members and help with the county and creating jobs here.”
Whether or not guests get involved in economic development, one thing is certain — they had fun.
“We weren’t sure what to expect, but we really had a good time,” said Davis. “We’ll definitely be back if they do it again.”
“We received tons of compliments,” said Heustess. “It’s always difficult to put anything on for the first time, and it went so much smoother than I anticipated. I’d be surprised if we don’t do it again, and I’d be surprised if it’s not bigger next time. The most common suggestion we received was that we do it more often, and a lot of people said they’re going to bring friends next time.”
In the words of Kenny Rogers, they’ve “found an ace (they) can keep.”
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.