Hard Rock Unveils ‘Unity’ Rewards Program, as Virginia’s First Casino Nears Opening

Posted on: June 27, 2022, 11:20h. 

Last updated on: June 27, 2022, 12:04h.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol has unveiled its forthcoming loyalty rewards program. The initiative will accompany the temporary gaming space set to open next month.

Hard Rock Bristol Virginia casino
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol team members celebrate the debut of the casino’s new Unity rewards program on June 19, 2022. Hard Rock Bristol plans to open its temporary casino next month on July 8. (Image: Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol)

Hard Rock International, the hospitality and gaming empire owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, has the honor of opening Virginia’s first commercial casino. Hard Rock Bristol’s temporary casino plans to welcome guests to its 870 slot machines, 21 table games, and on-site Hard Rock Sportsbook come July 8. The permanent $300 million resort isn’t expected to open until the summer of 2024.

Over the weekend, Hard Rock officials debuted its next loyalty rewards program “Unity by Hard Rock.” The program will replace Hard Rock Rewards next month, which has been used across all Hard Rock properties worldwide, including its cafes, casinos, and hotels.

Unity will utilize a similar tiered rewards arrangement. But unlike its predecessor, Unity rewards members will earn points with nearly all purchases made inside Hard Rock properties.

Hard Rock International says Unity will, for the first time in the company’s 50-year history, earn “incredible rewards while staying, dining, shopping, gaming, and doing what you love” at Hard Rock casinos, cafes, and hotels “anywhere in the world.”

Casinos Coming

Virginia’s long history of being adamantly against casino gambling became a thing of the past in 2020, when the state General Assembly and then-Gov. Ralph Northam (D) passed a gaming package into law. The omnibus allowed five economically troubled cities to consider authorizing a casino resort to spur economic activity. The statute also set the framework for legal, regulated sports betting.

Four casinos have since been fully authorized through local ballot referendums, one each in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Danville, and Bristol. The 2020 gaming legalization effort was initially led by Bristol businessmen Jim McGlothlin and Clyde Stacey.

McGlothlin and Stacey, who are minority owners in the Hard Rock Bristol project, will be first to the state’s emerging gaming industry. The Virginia Lottery Board is tasked with reviewing and approving gaming applications, and then regulating each property’s subsequent casino gambling operations. It granted Hard Rock Bristol its gaming concession in April.

Since then, state lottery officials have been on-site at the former Bristol Mall, where Hard Rock’s temporary casino space will commence gaming next month. The regulators are monitoring the receipt of approved gaming equipment.

Race for Market Share

The next of Virginia’s four future casinos expected to open is in Norfolk. The Pamunkey Indian Tribe and gaming billionaire Jon Yarbrough have teamed up to build a $500 million gaming destination on the Elizabeth River.

Similar to Bristol, Norfolk’s casino developers plan to open a temporary gaming space as the full resort undergoes construction. Norfolk local officials have approved allowing the tribe and Yarbrough to open a pop-up casino inside its Harbor Park minor league baseball stadium. It is adjacent to where the permanent standalone casino resort is being built.

Casino undertakings in Danville and Portsmouth, respectively from Caesars Entertainment and Rush Street Gaming’s Rivers casino brand, have not yet said whether they will seek temporary gaming spaces amid the construction of their resorts.