A new Hard Rock casino is on the horizon for Bristol, Virginia, but it’s going to take longer than expected.
New predictions suggest that a temporary casino location could be delayed into 2022.
While Hard Rock Bristol may be eager to open its doors, Virginia Lottery officials recognize potential setbacks.
Hard Rock Bristol moves closer to fruition
A referendum was introduced to Bristol voters in November, giving them the opportunity to approve a casino in the city’s former Bristol Mall location. Citizens conveyed immense support, advancing the process another step forward.
Now that both the Commonwealth and lawmakers of Virginia have approved a Bristol casino, the Virginia Lottery must establish an appropriate legal gaming environment by drafting a set of regulations.
Attorneys have until April 2021 to create such rules. These stipulations are important for outlining the application and licensing process for casino operators.
After regulations are established, the Virginia Lottery will begin accepting casino operator applications for the state’s other four approved casino locations:
Hard Rock was approved as Bristol’s operator in lieu of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, though the background check is still ongoing.
Before cleared, casino operators must first submit an application, undergo background checks, and follow proper regulatory and licensing steps.
Virginia Lottery Executive Director Kevin Hall noted that the immensity of the process could delay Hard Rock’s initial timeline.
Along with the casino’s extensive background check, employees, personnel and casino suppliers must also endure a thorough investigation. Hall said,
“It’s an in-depth investigation, and it should be. That’s how you reassure the public that the gaming is being conducted with integrity and with appropriate oversight. Every employee in a casino that has access to the gaming floor also has to be fingerprinted and background-checked to make sure they have the highest character.”
A temporary location may not emerge until 2022
With such a thorough investigative process, the Virginia Lottery may not realistically issue licenses to operators until mid-2022.
As a result, the timeline for the proposed Hard Rock temporary casino in the mall may be delayed. The casino initially planned to debut its interim facility in fall 2021.
Although a temporary location affords a truncated construction time, the site must adhere to the same regulations. Hard Rock may not operate any rendition of a casino until granted appropriate licenses. Hall continued by stating,
“We understand the enthusiasm of many of the folks in Bristol. I think the fall of 2021 might be ambitious. I think it would be very challenging on that timeline. It would appear to me that spring-summer of 2022 probably would be the earliest opportunity.”
In response to the possible delays, a Hard Rock Bristol spokesperson says the casino remains hopeful for a speedy process:
“We are monitoring the Lottery’s process and timeline for reviewing applications and issuing permits to conduct gaming. We remain committed to opening a temporary gaming facility as soon as possible. This is important to start bringing new jobs to Bristol and the region and begin generating additional state and local tax revenue. We remain optimistic for plans to open the resort by the end of 2022. We will work closely with the Lottery to satisfy all of the licensing requirements in a timely manner. The temporary casino will operate while the renovation and build-out of the Mall takes place.”
Hall said that since Hard Rock is already an established operator, the application and licensing process can potentially be expedited.
As it stands, Hard Rock Bristol still has its sights set on launching a permanent resort by the end of 2022.