A Virginia city that authorized the development of a single casino resort at a former shopping mall says the project is still a go.
Bristol was one of four cities in Virginia that passed a local casino ballot referendum in the November 2020 election. Bristol city officials less than a month later agreed to a development agreement with local businessmen Jim McGlothlin and Clyde Stacey. The deal called for them to construct an approximately $300 million casino resort in town.
McGlothlin and Stacey were behind a 2020 legislative effort in the Richmond capital. That bill called on economically distressed cities to ask their residents if they supported using a casino to generate business activity and regional investment.
Along with Bristol, casinos were approved in Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Danville. Richmond voters will decide on a casino during this fall’s election.
While work is progressing at the three other casinos, some residents in Bristol feel like their resort has stalled. But officials behind the development say much is going on behind the scenes.
Hard Rock Bristol
McGlothlin and Stacey, two longtime coal barons in Virginia, are strangers to the business of casinos. But since as early as 2018, the duo has felt that bringing commercial gambling to Bristol would provide the economic spark the region so desperately needs.
McGlothlin and Stacey have partnered with one of the world’s most experienced hospitality and gaming operators in Hard Rock International. Together, the group plans to transform the vacant Bristol Mall into a casino and entertainment destination.
Martin Kent, president of The United Company, McGlothlin’s coal company that is venturing into real estate with the casino project, said progress is being made.
“While you haven’t seen cranes, bulldozers, dirt, and dump trucks, a lot has happened behind the scenes,” Kent told the Kingsport Times-News this week.
I want to reassure folks this project is still going forward,” Kent continued. “We’re still working on it even though you’re not seeing the exterior renovations. Maybe you thought by now you would. But I can assure you a lot is going on. It remains a priority. We are moving forward with it.”
Kent explained that part of the holdup is the state. Virginia’s legalization of commercial casinos tasked the Virginia Lottery with licensing each city’s submission. That process is tedious and long, the state agency saying that each development must undergo a comprehensive review, including criminal and financial background checks on all individual stakeholders.
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol will see the 500,000-square-foot mall redeveloped, as well as the construction of two new hotel towers.
Once fully complete, the Hard Rock Virginia casino will feature 750 hotel rooms, a spa, a casino floor with 2,700 slot machines, 100 table games, a sportsbook, 11 restaurants and bars, and a 3,200-seat concert venue.
The resort destination is additionally set to comprise an outdoor event space with capacity for 20,000 people, a country music museum, and a convention facility.
Hard Rock Bristol plans upon completion to hire 2,000 employees to run the resort.
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