news virginias first casino opens its doors in bristol
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‘I won big’: Hard Rock International opens Virginia’s first casino in Bristol

Hardrock Hotel and Casino Bristol
Photo by Earl Neikirk

Virginia’s first casino opened its doors to the public on July 8 with a ribbon cutting and a donation to the United Way of Bristol TN/VA.

“I won big” images showcasing winners from “Bristol Casino – Future Home of Hard Rock” are prominently displayed on the casino’s Facebook page.

“We are excited to open the temporary casino in Bristol,” said Jon Lucas, COO of Hard Rock International in a news release. “Hard Rock’s rich and storied music legacy is a perfect fit for Bristol, the ‘Birthplace of Country Music.’ The casino’s gaming and dining amenities will make it a major entertainment destination for residents from across the region. We appreciate the ongoing collaboration from the Virginia Lottery. Their team has been great to work with.  Finally, we look forward to opening the permanent casino within two years and bringing the full legendary Hard Rock experience to Bristol.”

The Bristol location is at the site of the former Bristol Mall and is a temporary full-service casino with 30,000 square feet of casino space featuring 870 slots, 21 tables, and a sportsbook.

The casino is expected to have an immediate impact on Bristol’s economy – bringing 600 jobs to the city. More jobs are expected when the permanent casino opens in two years.

“These benefits extend across Southwest Virginia as communities receive additional tax revenue from the project. Local businesses in the tri-cities will see an economic development boost from increased tourism visitation and spending,” said Jim McGlothlin, chairman of The United Company. “All of this would not have been possible without the strong support from local residents and leaders, for which we remain incredibly grateful.”

The Virginia Lottery voted to approve the Hard Rock Bristol’s facility operator’s license in April.

“The Virginia Lottery has worked diligently for two years to build the appropriate regulatory structure for casino gaming,” said Virginia Lottery Acting Executive Director Kelly T. Gee after the 7-0 vote. “I am proud of the tireless work by our Gaming Compliance Department and our legal counsel for conducting the necessary investigative work to assist the board in its decision. There are still many steps to the finish line, but there is no doubt that this is an exciting time.”

The Virginia Lottery continues to review application materials for three more proposed casinos in Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth. Each was approved by voters in local referenda in November 2020.

The Virginia Lottery was created in a 1987 referendum by Virginia voters. Under legislation passed by the Virginia General Assembly in 2020, the lottery also assumed regulatory oversight of sports wagering and casino gaming in the Commonwealth.

While proceeds from traditional games offered by the lottery support a variety of K-12 programs, the taxes generated by sports wagering and casino gaming will benefit other priorities of the Commonwealth as determined by the General Assembly.

For more information about Hard Rock’s temporary casino in Bristol, visit https://www.hardrockhotelcasinobristol.com/.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.