Posted on: December 3, 2020, 10:47h.
Last updated on: December 3, 2020, 02:49h.
Hard Rock International has been formally selected to build and operate a casino resort in Bristol, Va. The casino and hotel are owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
The Bristol City Council met briefly this morning and unanimously approved Hard Rock as its gaming partner. Hard Rock has united with two local companies, the United Company and Par Ventures, the respective entities of Virginia businessmen Jim McGlothlin and Clyde Stacey.
Hard Rock plans to spend approximately $400 million to transform the shuttered Bristol Mall into Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol.
“The city issued a Request for Information on April 17, 2020. The city received one response from the Request for Information. The response was from Hard Rock International,” Bristol City Manager Randall Eads read of the resolution. The council and staff then recommended Hard Rock International as the preferred gaming operator in the city.
On November 3, Bristol voters backed a local ballot referendum asking if they wish to allow a casino in the city. The election question easily passed with 71 percent support.
Bristol was one of four Virginia cities that backed a casino referendum last month. Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Danville are also moving forward with commercial gaming venues. McGlothlin and Stacey spearheaded the casino effort that was ultimately successful in ending the Commonwealth’s longstanding prohibition on casino gambling.
Bristol’s Economic Struggles
Bristol has endured decades of economic difficulties. To qualify for a casino under legislation signed by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) earlier this year, cities must have met three standards. They must have reported an unemployment rate of at least five percent in 2018, a poverty rate of at least 20 percent in 2017, and a population decline of at least 20 percent between 1990 and 2016.
According to the latest “QuickFacts” report for Bristol issued by the United States Census Bureau, 20.5 percent of the city’s residents were living in poverty last year. The median household income was just $37,904 — $30,799 less than the nationwide average of $68,703.
The southern Virginia city that straddles the Commonwealth’s border with neighboring Tennessee is in much need of a large-scale investment such as what Hard Rock promises to bring.
Casino Could Benefit City
The developers behind Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol say the casino resort will feature a two-level gaming space, an outdoor entertainment venue with capacity to hold 20,000 people, an indoor venue with 3,200 seats, seven restaurants, four bars, retail shopping, and a convention and meeting space. The development will also include a 350-room hotel.
Hard Rock predicts that the investment will result in 2,000 new jobs, with an annual average wage of $45,000 per person. That’s nearly double the median per-person income for a Bristol resident, which the US Census Bureau says was $22,900 in 2018.
Along with Bristol, Hard Rock International is in the process of building casino resorts in Gary, Indiana, and Ottawa, Ontario.