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US – Virginia grants first land-based casino license to Hard Rock

By - 29 April 2022

Following a comprehensive review of application materials and an extensive background investigation and a 7-0 vote, the Virginia Lottery Board today issued to Hard Rock Bristol a facility operator’s license to operate Virginia’s first casino.

Hard Rock Bristol will start business with a temporary casino that will include a 30,000 square feet gaming floor with 870 slots, 22 table games, two restaurants, two bars, along with a sportsbook, and a retail site. The permeant property will feature 1,500 slots, 55 table games, and a 300-room hotel.

“We are excited by the Virginia Lottery Board’s action today granting a license to open Virginia’s first casino in Bristol subject to the completion of outstanding operational activities,” said Jon Lucas, chief operating officer of Hard Rock International.

“We appreciate the Virginia Lottery’s assistance and diligence in working closely with our team over many months to reach today’s important milestone for Bristol, Southwest Virginia and the Commonwealth.”

“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,” said Board Chairman Ferhan Hamid. “Today’s approval reflects the confidence we have in the rigorous and conscientious review conducted by Virginia Lottery staff.”

“The Virginia Lottery has worked diligently for two years to build the appropriate regulatory structure for casino gaming,” added Acting Executive Director Kelly T. Gee. “I am proud of the tireless work by our Gaming Compliance Department and our legal counsel for conducting the necessary investigative work to assist the Board in its decision. There are still many steps to the finish line, but there is no doubt that this is an exciting time.”

The Lottery’s Gaming Compliance Department will continue to work closely with Hard Rock Bristol as it prepares to open a temporary facility on the site of the former Bristol Mall in early July.

“We will be on-site at the casino over the next couple of months observing the receipt of gaming equipment, reviewing internal controls, and ensuring full compliance with the regulations,” said Virginia Lottery Deputy Executive Director of Gaming Compliance Gina M. Smith.

The development will include seven restaurants and four bars, a 3,200 seat Hard Rock Live venue, a 20,000 people outdoor entertainment venue, a country western nightlife experience, and a Hard Rock Cafe with a stage for local and musicians and beyond. The resort will also feature a Rock Shop and retail store, Rock Spa and Body Rock fitness center, a convention and meeting space, and a country music memorabilia experience.  Hard Rock also announced that the Bristol property will include a racing experience, sport experience and interactive sports and e-sports simulator.

Hard Rock is also showcasing a sample of their vast collection of music memorabilia that will be housed at the new Bristol location.  Visitors can also see memorabilia pieces for country music legends Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn and others, including, Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Buck Owens and Hank Williams. 

State Senator Todd Pillion said: “This is another important step in the process of bringing Hard Rock Bristol to life. As approved in overwhelming fashion by the citizens of Bristol, this project will be transformative for the surrounding region which stands to benefit from the thousands of jobs that will be created and the millions of dollars in new revenue that will improve our infrastructure, enhance public safety, fund public schools, and strengthen our communities. I applaud the developers, our local leaders, my colleagues in the General Assembly, and the regulators who are working to ensure a thoughtful and responsible approach to this project.”

Also today, the Board voted to amend its regulations to include casinos in the Voluntary Exclusion Program operated by the Virginia Lottery.

The Lottery continues to review application materials for three more proposed casinos in Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth. Each was approved by voters in local referenda in November 2020.

Casino and sports betting regulations, information and approvals can be viewed at vagamingregulations.com, a microsite providing key information and public transparency on issues around expanded gaming.

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