Virginia residents have had the pleasure of wagering in a real-life casino for almost an entire month now. Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol debuted as scheduled with a grand opening ceremony on July 8.
Housed in the former Belk department store of the old Bristol Mall, this temporary casino site is about one-third of the expected size of the permanent structure. It measures 30,000 square feet and includes nearly 870 slots, 21 gaming tables and a sportsbook.
Hard Rock Casino Bristol: temporary, but full-service
Bristol voters approved Hard Rock’s plans to build a casino resort within city limits back in Nov. 2020, as did residents in Danville, Portsmouth and Norfolk. Hard Rock, however, became the first Virginia casino to receive a license from the state’s lottery board on April 27.
Although temporary, Bristol Casino will operate as a full-service casino that includes the main casino floor, a non-smoking area, high-limit gaming areas and plenty of options for food and drink. Those offerings include:
- Bristol Bar: a sports and entertainment lounge
- Mr. Lucky’s: sit-down dining
- Brick’d: a grab-and-go outlet featuring brick-oven pizzas
The casino’s opening created more than 600 jobs to help boost Virginia’s economy. The altruism didn’t stop there, though. To commemorate the casino’s grand opening, Hard Rock presented the United Way of Bristol TN/VA with a $100,000 donation.
Jon Lucas, COO of Hard Rock International, noted the team’s enthusiasm for the future in a recent release:
“We are excited to open the temporary casino in Bristol. 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 … Finally, we look forward to opening the permanent casino within two years and bringing the full legendary Hard Rock experience to Bristol.”
Virginia casino guests bet $37.5 million in first week
Financial reports from the casino’s first week of operation revealed that Virginians were as enthusiastic about the launch as Hard Rock itself.
The casino reported numbers to the Virginia Lottery Board on July 20, according to the Bristol Herald Courier. That first report included totals from July 5 to July 14, since the casino hosted a couple of soft opening events ahead of the July 8 grand opening.
The initial week in Bristol generated more than $673,000 in taxes from the casino’s adjusted gaming revenue of $3.74 million.
In total, visitors to the casino wagered more than $37.5 million and won more than $33.7 million.
Breaking down the money further showed better luck at the slots – customers won back more than 90 percent of slot-machine wagers compared with 87% winnings on the table games. More specifically, $34.57 million was wagered at the slots with payouts totaling $31.22 million.
More than $31.22 million in winnings were paid out on $2.93 million wagered at the casino’s 21 table games.
The $100,000 donation to United Way was included in the revenue, officials said.
First permanent Virginia casino expected in 2023
Hard Rock Bristol’s temporary structure sits just off Interstate 81 (Exit 1 in Virginia, just past the Tennessee state line) and stays open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The casino’s current 24-month estimate of completion makes a July 2024 opening likely for the permanent build. The venue will ultimately measure 90,000 square feet and also will remain open 24/7.
Hard Rock projects a revenue of $150 million in the permanent structure’s first year — a sum that will ultimately benefit casino employees as well as the entire state of Virginia. At least 1,500 additional jobs are expected to be created in year one. That number at Hard Rock Casino and Resort is then expected to increase to 5,200 positions within seven years’ time. Moreover, annual pay for those jobs will average roughly $46,500.
In addition to the restaurants that are already open, the $400 million permanent Hard Rock Casino and Resort Bristol will feature:
- 700 rooms in its hotel
- 20,000-seat, outdoor live-music venue
- 3,200-seat amphitheater
- retail shops
Both Hard Rock and Bristol (the birthplace of country music) share a deep-seed musical heritage. Staying true to those roots, officials say the permanent site’s grand opening will come complete with a traditional Hard Rock guitar smash.
Hard Rock Bristol won’t be Virginia’s only casino for long, though. If plans remain on schedule, Rivers Portsmouth Casino Resort will be the next to open in early 2023, with Caesars Casino Resort Danville and HeadWaters Resort & Casino expected to open in the last quarter of 2023.