Virginia’s 1st casino opens in Bristol in temporary space
BRISTOL, Va. (AP) — Virginia’s first casino has opened in a temporary space inside a former shopping mall in Bristol.
The Bristol Casino will be open 24/7, offering 870 slot machines, 21 tables and a bookmaker. A line of customers wrapped around the building as they waited for Friday’s grand opening, TV station WDBJ reported.
“We had to come and save my sister from spending all her money,” Christiansburg resident Cheryl Hubbard told the station. “And spend all of his,” she joked, pointing to her husband.
In 2020, the Virginia General Assembly approved legislation allowing developers to build large casinos in five cities – Norfolk, Bristol, Portsmouth, Danville and Richmond – in what supporters have touted as a way to boost struggling economies.
Potential operators first had to approve a referendum of voters. This has happened in every city except Richmond, which rejected the initiative last year. But city officials have been pushing to bring the problem back a second time.
Bristol voters overwhelmingly approved their referendum, and the plan got his license earlier this year.
The developers eventually plan to open a $400 million resort and Hard Rock casino, complete with hotel, restaurants, bars and lounges, and a concert hall. The large-scale project is expected to open in 2024 and employ 1,200 people.
The initial site has 600 employees, local media reported.
State Senator Louise Lucas, a Democrat from Portsmouth who had long pushed to change Virginia law to allow casinos, was on hand to celebrate, according to the Bristol Herald Courier.
“It’s like throwing my own personal party because it took so long,” she said. “I’m so excited for Bristol and I’ll be ready for the Portsmouth party in February.”