Ever-Growing Hard Rock Seeks Temp Casino in Bristol to Prep for $400 Million Virginia Resort

Posted on: June 27, 2020, 04:34h. 

Last updated on: June 30, 2020, 02:18h.

Hard Rock International may end up launching in Virginia sooner than expected. The gaming company, owned by The Seminole Tribe of Florida, will pursue a temporary gaming license for its project in Bristol, Va., WJHL-TV reported on Thursday.

Hard Rock Bristol Virginia casino
Not only does Hard Rock International plan to transform the Bristol Mall into a resort casino, it also plans to use the Virginia shopping center to house a temporary casino, if voters in the city approve a gaming referendum in November. (Image: WCYB-TV)

According to the television station, Hard Rock would use part of the Bristol Mall as its temporary facility. The casino would be open to the public and would also serve as the training ground for casino employees.

The Florida-based gaming company and its local developer partners plan to invest $400 million at the mall, which is located just north of the Tennessee state line and transform the property into a casino resort. The facility would include a 750-room hotel with other amenities, including indoor and outdoor entertainment venues that can hold up to 20,000. The temporary facility would be open while construction takes place on the permanent facilities.

The proposal by Hard Rock and Virginia businessmen Jim McGlothlin and Clyde Stacy was the only one submitted to the Bristol City Council by its May 8 deadline.

Bristol is one of five cities eligible to pursue casinos in Virginia after the state legislature ratified expanded gaming legislation two months ago. Part of the requirement is passage of a local referendum, which is scheduled for Nov. 3.

It’s uncertain when, exactly, a temporary facility would open. The Virginia Lottery, which will oversee casino gaming, would also have to approve the license for the short-term venue.

Virginia Gaming Laws Take Effect

Virginia’s casino gaming laws officially go into effect on Wednesday, which is the start of the new fiscal year in the state.

The state will tax casino gross gaming revenues at 18 percent for the first $200 million, 23 percent for the next $200 million, and 30 percent for any revenue exceeding $400 million.

In addition to Bristol, the cities of Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Richmond are also eligible to allow casino gaming in their communities. Again, each one is subject to a local referendum.

Casinos weren’t the only gaming issues the state legislature dealt with this year.

Lawmakers also approved sports betting, giving the Lottery the ability to allow as many as a dozen licensed providers in the state. The sportsbooks will be able to offer betting on pro and college sports. But collegiate games played in Virginia or involving in-state teams will not be allowed.

The legislature also was on track to ban “gray machines” that are currently operating in bars, restaurants, and truck stops in various communities across the state. However, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) amended the bill to give the skill games a one-year reprieve. The funding from those machines over the next 12 months will be used to back Virginia’s COVID-19 relief initiatives.

Hard Rock Expanding Across Midwest

Bristol is one of just several projects ongoing for Hard Rock.

Last month, the Indiana Gaming Commission approved a casino license in Terre Haute for Spectacle Jack LLC, which will partner with Hard Rock to build a $120 million casino in the west-central part of the state. Earlier this year in Indiana, Hard Rock also broke ground on a new land-based casino resort that will replace the Majestic Star riverboats in Gary.

Hard Rock also closed last year on a deal to buy JACK Cincinnati from JACK Entertainment for $745 million. Hard Rock planned on rebranding the casino this past spring until the COVID-19 crisis shut down the venue for three months. It reopened last week.

“Believe me, I am as anxious as all of you to see Hard Rock Casino signage, the experience, the incomparable memorabilia, and to dine at a Hard Rock Café,” said George Goldhoff, president of Hard Rock Cincinnati in a update on the casino’s website.”

But for now, I ask for your understanding during what has become an extraordinary circumstance. Visible changes may not occur immediately. But you have my word, I will continue to provide timely updates as I have throughout our closure.”

In Illinois, officials in Rockford selected Hard Rock to be its gaming partner for a casino in the state’s second-largest city. However, the Illinois Gaming Board has yet to sign off on Hard Rock’s application.

In addition, Hard Rock International reacquired the rights to the Hard Rock brand in Nevada last month, and company officials have hinted they may look to enter the Las Vegas market.