Hard Rock Bristol to open first private-owned casino in Virginia

April 29, 2022

After months of background checks and regulatory review, the Lottery Board in Virginia finally approved the opening of its first temporary casino at the hands of Hard Rock. The casino is located in Bristol and is expected to open by July of this year.

"We are excited by the VA 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 Hard Rock’s International Chief Operating Officer Jon Lucas. "We appreciate the VA 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."

The fruition of House Bill 4, signed in 2020, is certainly a big leap considering the state’s long history of disapproval of gambling. In the past, it only allowed state-run lotteries.

"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 Virginia Lottery Board Chairman Ferhan Hamid.

"Today’s approval reflects the confidence we have in the rigorous and conscientious review conducted by Virginia Lottery staff."

Virginia’s first Bristol Casino

The Bristol Casino opening this July is only temporary as the whole Hard Rock casino and resort project is not expected until sometime in 2025.

The temporary casino is set to have its grand opening on Friday, July 8, 2022. It will open in Bristol Mall, replacing the former Belk department store space that has been vacant since 2017.

This full-service casino consists of 30,000 square feet of space and offers 870 slots, 21 table games, and a sportsbook. It also provides a non-smoking and high-limit gaming area, restaurants, and a sports bar and lounge. With this operation, the company predicts it will create 600 new jobs in Bristol.

"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 M. Smith.

Future plans

Hard Rock aims to build a 750-room hotel for its permanent Bristol casino and resort. The casino itself will be upgraded. In addition to the sportsbook, it will have 2,700 slots and 100 table games.

The mandatory spa, retail shopping, and banquet hall of 50,000 square feet are undoubtedly in the plan. For a complete dining experience, the hotel will offer seven restaurants and four bars on top of its signature Hard Rock Café. It also plans to build an on-site concert venue that can fit 3,200 visitors, as well as a larger outdoor entertainment area with a capacity of 20,000 people.

Other Virginian cities that will soon have their own casinos include Norfolk, Danville, and Portsmouth. Norfolk has partnered with the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, Danville with Caesars, and Portsmouth with Rush Street Gaming.

The residents of these cities approved the operators’ proposals back in November 2020. However, the Virginia Lottery Board is still reviewing the application materials.

Acting Executive Director Kelly T. Gee said, "I am proud of the tireless work by our Gaming Compliance Department and our legal counsel for conducting the necessary investigative work to assist the Board in its decision. There are still many steps to the finish line, but there is no doubt that this is an exciting time."

Before this, Richmond was also drafted along with those cities for a potential casino opening. The residents refused and rejected the proposal through a local ballot referendum.

Gus Anderson
Gus Anderson is a gambling wizard. As a kid he dreamt about becoming a Tennis, Hockey and Golf professional but ended up as a gambling professional with focus on both sports & casino.