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Hard Rock opens Virginia’s first casino

A ribbon cutting ceremony marks the grand opening of the Bristol Casino in Bristol, Virginia, on July 8. The temporary casino will be used while a Hard Rock hotel and casino are built on the property. From left, Martin Kent, president and CEO of the United Co.; Clyde Stacy, president of Par Ventures; Jim McGlothlin, chairman of the United Co.; Seminole Tribe Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr.; Jon Lucas, Hard Rock International COO; and Allie Evangelista, president of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol. (Hard Rock)

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol is expected to be completed within the next two years at the site of a former mall in Southwest Virginia. For now, guests can try their luck and skill in a temporary casino on the site.

The temporary casino, known as Bristol Casino – Future Home of Hard Rock, held a grand opening July 8. Seminole Tribe Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr. participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony alongside Hard Rock executives and partners. Business and community leaders also attended. The casino presented a $100,000 donation to the United Way of Bristol TN/VA through gaming proceeds generated at casino events July 5 and July 7.

Until the doors opened, Virginia had never had a casino. In late April, the Virginia Lottery Board – by unanimous vote – issued a license to Hard Rock to operate the first casino.

“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,” Ferhan Hamid, board chairman, said in a statement at the time. “[This] approval reflects the confidence we have in the rigorous and conscientious review conducted by Virginia Lottery staff.”

The 30,000-square foot temporary casino has 870 slots and 21 gaming tables, two restaurants, two bars/lounges, a sports book and a Rock Shop retail store. The permanent facility will be a $400 million project with a grand opening slated for the summer of 2024. It is expected to employ 1,200 and feature 1,500 slots and 55 tables. The project includes a 300-room room hotel, a Hard Rock Live music venue, five restaurants and four bars/lounges, a sports book and Rock Shop.

Hard Rock officials said the area is ideal considering Bristol and its bordering sister city – Bristol, Tennessee – have long histories with country music. The area is home to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. Hard Rock and the local chamber of commerce also share an affection for large guitars. Outside its office, the chamber features a 20-foot guitar, a tad smaller than Hard Rock’s 450-foot Guitar Hotel that towers above Hollywood.

“Hard Rock’s rich and storied music legacy is a perfect fit for Bristol, the ‘Birthplace of Country Music,’” Jon Lucas, COO of Hard Rock International, said in a statement. “The casino’s gaming and dining amenities will make it a major entertainment destination for residents from across the region. We appreciate the ongoing collaboration from the Virginia Lottery. Their team has been great to work with. Finally, we look forward to opening the permanent casino within two years and bringing the full legendary Hard Rock experience to Bristol.”

In a joint statement, partners involved in the project stressed its local economic upside.

“We are glad that the project is having an immediate impact in boosting Bristol’s economy… This is only a start, as the project will generate even more jobs when the permanent casino opens,” said Jim McGlothlin, chairman of The United Co., and Clyde Stacy, president of Par Ventures. “These benefits extend across southwest Virginia as communities receive additional tax revenue from the project. Local businesses in the Tri-Cities will see an economic development boost from increased tourism visitation and spending. All of this would not have been possible without the strong support from local residents and leaders, for which we remain incredibly grateful.”

The Seminole Tribe is the parent entity of Hard Rock International.

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Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is senior editor. He has worked for The Seminole Tribune since 2014. He was previously an editor, photographer and reporter for newspapers in Southwest Florida and Connecticut. Contact Kevin at kevinjohnson@semtribe.com.
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