Virginia’s first casino will be a Hard Rock.
Wednesday, the Virginia Lottery Board voted 7-0 to grant a facility operator license to Hard Rock for a new casino located in Bristol. It will be the first land-based casino in Virginia.
Hard Rock plans to open a temporary casino at the old location of the Bristol Mall by July while working on a permanent structure that hopes to be open by July 2024.
“We are excited by the Virginia Lottery Board’s action today granting a license to open Virginia’s first casino in Bristol subject to the completion of outstanding operational activities,” said Jon Lucas, chief operating officer of Hard Rock International in a statement.
“We appreciate the Virginia Lottery’s assistance and diligence in working closely with our team over many months to reach today’s important milestone for Bristol, Southwest Virginia and the Commonwealth.”
Virginia’s smooth road to Hard Rock
The Virginia Lottery Board assumed oversight of sports wagering and casino gaming from legislation passed in 2020. In statements Wednesday, the Board hailed the bid of Hard Rock, saying they were pleased the process was conducted with integrity.
“Since enacted by the 2020 General Assembly, the Board’s priority for casino gaming in the Commonwealth is that it be conducted with integrity and in a responsible manner,” said Board Chairman Ferhan Hamid.
“Today’s approval reflects the confidence we have in the rigorous and conscientious review conducted by Virginia Lottery staff.”
The board also voted to add casinos into the state’s voluntary exclusion program, meaning state residents can submit their names and voluntarily ban themselves from gambling.
They are still looking at applications for three additional casinos in Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth. Plans for a casino in Richmond remain in limbo after residents voted down the concept last November.
What happens now for Virginia?
Work will start on Hard Rock Bristol. It is planned for the temporary site to have 870 slot machines and 21 table games. The temporary casino is expected to create 600 jobs.
The permanent casino will be a giant stay-and-play spot with an indoor performance center and a 20,000-person outdoor entertainment venue. It will also come with the usual Hard Rock paraphernalia, with music-themed restaurants and lounges.
“We will be on-site at the casino over the next couple of months observing the receipt of gaming equipment, reviewing internal controls, and ensuring full compliance with the regulations,” said Virginia Lottery Deputy Executive Director of Gaming Compliance Gina Smith.
Why Bristol? Where in Bristol?
The casino will be located just off Exit 1 on I-81 at 500 Gate City Highway. There are two Bristols. They are sister towns hugging the Virginia–Tennessee border.
Bristol, Tennessee, is home to the Bristol Motor Speedway, which has hosted multiple NASCAR events. The Hard Rock Bristol will be 11 miles north of the track.