East Tennessee residents will soon have a new casino just across the border in Bristol, Virginia.
Virginia voters approved a local referendum on Nov. 3, permitting a new $400 million casino in the city.
Construction is underway on the Hard Rock Bristol Hotel and Casino, which will be located immediately across the Tennessee border in the former Bristol Mall.
Bristol Hard Rock Casino comes to fruition
A number of local businesses and city officials joined together in support of the opportunities this new project affords the region.
Bristol mayor Bill Hartley says bringing a world-famous Hard Rock casino to downtown Bristol will rejuvenate the area. A substantial boost in tourism will develop the surrounding community.
Among the casino’s opponents are four Virginia churches, who recently dispersed an eight-page anti-gambling booklet to Bristol residents.
Ultimately, voters approved gambling in three other Virginia cities alongside Bristol – Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth.
Preliminary results revealed more than 65% of each city’s voters were in favor.
State legislation sanctioned Richmond as the fifth permissible location, though it will not be put to a vote until next year.
Bristol tax revenue initiatives
The city of Bristol will collect more than $16 million in forecasted annual tax revenue from this endeavor.
Income will go to local police and fire departments, school systems and debt reduction initiatives.
School construction projects do not currently receive a state-funded allotment. This lack of city and state tax revenue has been a struggle previously.
Accordingly, Gov. Ralph Northam ensured this current legislation allocates for school builds on a state-wide level.
Bristol school superintendent Keith Perrigan hopes this will lead to increased pay and benefits for teachers, as well as upgraded supplies and equipment for students.
Moving forward with a new casino
The Hard Rock Bristol Hotel and Casino is becoming a reality for area bettors.
Projected to open within 18 months, the Bristol Mall’s former Sears storefront will be the casino’s permanent home.
In the meantime, sights are set on a temporary casino inside the old Belk location. Bristol vice-mayor Anthony Farnum anticipates ribbon cutting on this initial establishment could happen in as little as six to nine months.
The international Hard Rock chain is a proven catalyst for growing disenfranchised communities into gambling meccas.
East Tennesseans can double down on Bristol, Virginia following suit.