Hard Rock Bristol made history today by opening as Virginia’s first casino.
The exterior of the Hard Rock Bristol temporary casino. The casino is Virginia’s first. (Image: Twitter)
The commonwealth, one of the original Thirteen Colonies, ended its centuries-long opposition to casino gambling in 2020. That’s when state lawmakers and then-Gov. Ralph Northam (D) authorized commercial gaming resorts in certain cities. The legislation was designed to allow economically troubled towns that met qualifying criteria to ask their residents if they wished to bring a casino to town to spur hiring and business activity.
Bristol was one of the five qualifying cities. Local voters signed off on their single casino opportunity through a ballot referendum during the November 2020 election. Of the 7,648 votes cast on the casino question, 71% said they supported allowing Hard Rock International to invest $400 million into building a casino resort on the grounds of the defunct Bristol Mall.
While the full-scale permanent resort, which includes constructing a new 300-room hotel tower next to the current mall, isn’t slated to open until 2024, Hard Rock Bristol today opened its temporary gaming space. The 30,000-square-foot interim casino takes the place of what was formerly a Belk department store.
First Gambles Wagered
Hard Rock Bristol welcomed its first casino guests today at 2 pm local time. A long line of guests gathered outside the facility in anticipation of its opening.
The temporary gaming space is equipped with roughly 900 slot machines, 20 table games, and a sportsbook. The venue also offers grab-and-go food, beverage service, and a Hard Rock shop selling t-shirts and collectibles.
The temporary Hard Rock Bristol casino space will eventually be replaced by a permanent, much larger gaming floor when the full resort opens in two years. Property President Allie Evangelista says guests will quickly realize that Hard Rock doesn’t cut corners when it comes to offering a premier gaming experience.
I’ve been in a lot of casinos. This is as nice, if not nicer, than some places I’ve been and operated before. And it’s a temporary property,” Evangelista told the Bristol Herald Courier.
“I’m really proud of the work. The product we have here is really nice,” she added.
Hard Rock Bristol’s temporary casino will operate around the clock, seven days a week.
Hard Rock Bristol is the first of the four approved casinos to turn on its regulated slot machines and get cards in the air on its table games. Construction on the main resort is proceeding as planned, Hard Rock officials say.
Set to open in May of 2024, the permanent Hard Rock Bristol Hotel & Casino will initially offer 300 guestrooms. An expansion phase with 350 additional occupancies will be announced at a later date.
The casino floor will span nearly 100,000 square feet and come with 1,500 slots, 55 tables, and a sportsbook facility. The destination’s restaurants will be naturally highlighted by a Hard Rock Café — also Virginia’s first.
Along with 14 other planned eating options, Hard Rock Bristol will include a 2,000-seat indoor concert venue and an outdoor amphitheater capable of accommodating 20,000 people.
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