Proposed $150 Million Shopping Mall Casino in Virginia Needs Lawmakers’ Support First

Posted on: September 10, 2018, 05:00h. 

Last updated on: September 10, 2018, 05:58h.

Developers in Bristol, VA have big plans to boost the local economy with a 90,000-square foot casino which they say will add an estimated 5,200 jobs with an average salary of $42,000 to the area. The only problem? Virginia hasn’t legalized gambling…yet.

Developers have plans to bring a 90,000 square foot casino to a Bristol, VA shopping mall, but first need support of local and state officials. (Photo: Andre Teague/Bristol Herald Courier)

The proposed casino project calls for a 600-1,000 room hotel, 25,000-square feet allocated for sports betting, 50 stores and restaurants on the property, and an additional 90,000-square feet for children’s activities.

Developers are optimistic about the casino’s potential, but it won’t matter unless Virginia lawmakers move to legalize casino gambling in the state during the upcoming 2019 legislative session.

According to the Bristol Herald Courier, Virginia lawmakers haven’t indicated what decision will be made as it pertains to gambling in the state, but have told developers that nothing will be considered without the city’s support first.

Bristol’s city council is expected to vote on a resolution supporting the project at a Tuesday, September 11 meeting.

The proposed $150 million project will be entirely funded by developers Jim McGlothlin and Clyde Stacy. The time to act on the project is now, Stacy said, because neighboring states like Kentucky and Tennessee—which also don’t allow gambling in casinos—might try to undercut Virginia for the opportunity.

“I know this will be before the Kentucky Legislature this coming year,” Stacy said. “Tennessee, once they realize what we’re trying to do, may do a special session or something because this is big. It would be big for Tennessee or Kentucky. But, if we get in first, it’s not likely anyone would put a casino anywhere closer than Knoxville.”

According to Virginia’s legislative website, no bills related to gaming have been introduced for the 2019 session.

Why Should We?

McGlothlin and Stacy are betting their own money on the casino because, they say, it will be a huge boost to the region’s economy and create additional tax revenue.

“To me it is about the betterment of our people, and the betterment of this town,” McGlothlin said.

McGlothlin and Stacy say that the casino would bring in $26.8 million in tax dollars to the city each year, to go along with the job creation. They also say that the casino would bring three million people to the area annually after five years.

They also estimate casino revenues to be $150 million in the first year, and non-gaming revenue to reach $106 million in the first year.

A New Lease for Shopping Centers of Yester-year

The Bristol Herald Courier reported that the likely location of the casino would likely be the abandon space left empty by now-closed J.C. Penney and Sears stores. It’s a creative use of space, but it’s not the first time someone has wanted to put a gaming venue inside of a stale shopping center.

Penn National Gaming also has plans to build a satellite casino inside of a York, PA shopping mall. The opportunity to do so came after Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill in 2017 allowing for 10 satellite casinos in the state.

PNG bid $50.1 million for the chance to build the casino. The casino would help reinvent the York Galleria Mall, which has seen a number of stores, including two major ones, go out of business.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will hear PNG’s official on Wednesday, September 12.