‘Vote Yes For Bristol’ Pushes Toward Casino Approval With Referendum Approaching

Posted on July 29, 2020 - Last Updated on August 26, 2020

With fewer than 100 days until Bristol’s voters decide the fate of a possible Hard Rock Hotel & Casino within city limits, the push for approval now has a name. The “Vote Yes For Bristol” campaign has taken shape toward that end.

The advocacy group, led by Hard Rock and other casino industry figures, enjoys support from prominent people in the city.

Who’s behind the ‘Vote Yes For Bristol’ campaign?

The group’s sole purpose is to sway the Nov. 3 vote in favor of the casino construction at the former Bristol Mall site.

The campaign has three co-chairs with interests in the project:

  • Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International and CEO of Seminole Gaming
  • Jim McGlothlin, chairman and CEO of The United Company
  • Clyde Stacy, president of Par Ventures

The group’s strategy is to “engage directly with residents to answer questions and provide information about the project.”

Typically, this involves a media barrage. Bristol residents should expect to receive mailings and see “Vote Yes For Bristol” advertising on a variety of local media outlets.

While Hard Rock can’t start development until after the referendum, the wheels are already in motion. The Virginia Lottery has approved the preferred partner status between Bristol and Hard Rock.

That will act as a springboard to actual licensure should voters approve the referendum. Approval seems to be the most likely outcome given the community support for the advocacy group.

Community leaders sign on to support referendum passage

When “Vote Yes For Bristol” announced itself, three key city officials endorsed the project: Mayor Bill Hartley, School Board Chairman Steve Fletcher and Police Chief John Austin.

That should represent all the necessary power to outperform any opposition. While there is a Facebook group dedicated to opposing casinos in the city, it has a mere 460 members and the most recent post is dated May 16.

For that reason, the campaign may be more about convincing Bristol residents to vote on the down-ballot issue than swaying undecided voters. In a presidential election year, that race alone can drown out other issues.

While there are many moving parts, the proposal’s most significant selling points should have broad appeal. Those are:

  • The creation of more than 1,000 permanent jobs.
  • $20 million in annual tax revenue for the city and surrounding areas.
  • Further economic improvement in the development area by Hard Rock.
  • Over 1,000 temporary jobs in the construction phase.

If voters approve the referendum in November, it may be because this campaign was successful. At the same time, the case for the casino nearly makes itself.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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