We are still four months from knowing if Virginia casinos will come to four of the five designated casino host cities. Virginia voters will have the final say on Election Day, Nov. 3.
That isn’t stopping plans from moving forward, however.
The five cities and their preferred casino partners are operating as if the voters have already spoken. This is especially true for Hard Rock Casino Resort Bristol.
According to WJHL’s News Channel 11, Hard Rock Bristol plans on applying for a temporary casino license to offer gambling during the construction of its resort project.
The casino will be at the Bristol Mall. The permanent 100,000-square-foot gaming floor will be in the former Sears store.
The temporary casino presumably would also be in the mall. It will be open to the public while the permanent casino is under construction.
Several locations in the mall could serve as a temporary home to slot machines and table games. You can see where those might be on the plans released by the project team.
Of course, this is all dependent on the results of the referendum that will be on the general election ballot.
Hard Rock Casino Resort Bristol project plans
The city of Bristol officially named Hard Rock International as its preferred casino partner last month. It recently submitted its selection to the Virginia Lottery for preliminary approval.
Hard Rock plans to invest $400 million into converting Bristol Mall into a luxury casino-resort.
Besides the 100,000-square-foot casino mentioned above, plans include:
- 25,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art sportsbook
- 600-750 hotel rooms built adjacent to the mall
- 50 restaurants, bars and retail spaces
- 100,000-square-foot convention center
There are estimates that 80% of the visitors to the casino-resort will come from out of state. It makes a resort with all the amenities an important part of the overall plan.
Big day: Lottery expands, sports betting becomes legal
On July 1, the VA Lottery expands its online products. Currently, it only offers a four-game minimum subscription to Powerball and Mega Millions.
The expansion will bring popular games online, including:
- Single Powerball and Mega Millions tickets
- Instant-win games
- Electronic version of scratchers
Surely, retail sales will continue to dominate lottery sales. However, online sales will certainly increase the lottery’s revenue. It is quite timely considering the state’s financial challenges as a result of the pandemic.
In addition to the expansion of the online lottery in VA on July 1, the bill legalizing sports betting finally becomes law.
The public comment period begins a few weeks later on July 15 and lasts for 35 days, until Aug. 19.
The VA Lottery has until Sept. 15 to publish sports betting regulations. It will start accepting license applications by the end of September.
The majority of sports betting in VA will happen online.
The law allows 18 total sports betting licenses; 12 of those licenses are untethered. That means online sports betting in VA will be favorable to bettors because there will likely be heavy competition.
Hard Rock has already indicated it plans to open a retail sportsbook at its casino. Looking at the other VA casino projects, Hard Rock is probably the favorite to open the first land-based sportsbook.
There is a lot of excitement around the launch of casino gambling in Virginia. Even so, there is a long road before we witness the first pull of a slot machine.
In the end, the launch of VA online sports betting could happen several months, maybe even a year, ahead of casino gambling and in-person betting.