Hard Rock Casino Bristol Is One Step Closer To Reality

Written By Kim Yuhl on June 4, 2020 - Last Updated on August 2, 2023

Last week, the Bristol City Council approved Hard Rock International as the preferred provider for its Virginia casino. It did so after receiving “overwhelming support” from residents in two public forums held earlier in the month.

In a unanimous 5-0 vote, the council moved Hard Rock Casino Bristol one step closer to reality.

The Bristol Casino team thanked city officials and residents for their support.

“We want to thank members of the Bristol, Virginia City Council for their strong support tonight of the Hard Rock Casino Bristol.

The resort will be a catalyst for the entire region, helping to create jobs at local businesses that will serve the four million tourists a year coming to Bristol to enjoy our outdoor beauty and visit the many wonderful entertainment, cultural and recreational attractions across Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee.”

A sneak peek at Hard Rock Casino Bristol

In the plans presented to the city council, Hard Rock Bristol Casino and Resort will include:

  • 100,000 square-foot casino
  • 750 luxury hotel rooms
  • 50 restaurants, shops, and other small businesses
  • 20,000-person outdoor concert venue
  • 3,200-seat indoor concert hall
  • 100,000-square-foot convention center

There are estimates the new casino resort will bring 2,000 new jobs to the area, 1,000 of them in the casino, and about $20 million in tax revenue to the city.

Below is the rendering of the proposed Hard Rock Casino presented at the city council meeting.

Hard Rock Casino Bristol

Hard Rock had the stage all to itself

Hard Rock was the only casino to apply to become Bristol’s preferred casino provider. The city council was expecting a second bid from real estate developer, Steve Johnson, who wanted to team up with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

The bid never materialized, however. That might have something to do with the fact that Bristol city officials finalized a deal with Hard Rock last fall.

The plans for Hard Rock Casino Bristol actually began long before last fall, in September 2018, when the United Company and Par Ventures bought Bristol Mall.

At the time, the developers shared plans to invest $150 million into converting the mall into a casino resort. Of course, casino gambling was still illegal in Virginia then, and several attempts at changing the law had failed.

However, national attitudes toward gambling were starting to change following the overturning of PASPA earlier in 2018 and the subsequent launch of sports betting in several states. Even so, it was a big bet with a real risk that is now paying off.

Get out and vote on casinos Nov. 3

Now, that the Bristol City Council made it official, the selection of Hard Rock as its preferred casino provider heads to the Lottery Board for approval. That will likely happen during its July 15 meeting.

Then there is one final step.

The deals might be made, but it is the voters who will ultimately decide the fate of Hard Rock Casino Bristol.

Bristol residents still have one more chance to have their voices heard, and that comes at the ballot box.

The referendum on casino gambling and plans for the former Bristol Mall will be on the Nov. 3 general election ballot. Based on the support shown during the public comment sessions, it seems likely to pass.

However, stranger things have happened, so remember to get out and vote.

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