The developers behind a $150 million proposed casino development in Bristol, Virginia are on the defensive, addressing community concerns about the potential for prostitution, drug use, and increased criminal activity in the area when — and if — their project becomes reality, now that local government has given the gaming venue the green light. Casino gaming is still not legalized in Virginia.

bristol casino

City council members in Bristol, Virginia passed a resolution to support a $150 million casino project this week. But residents of the area are not all as enthusiastic. (Image: Bristol Herald Courier)

Jim McGlothlin — president of The United Co., the company behind the $150 million dollar project — has been going into full PR mode after Bristol residents expressed apprehension about the impact the casino could have on the community of just 17,000 people.

At a city council meeting earlier this week, residents spoke out about their concerns. In response, McGlothlin addressed a local media source with assurances that he will keep the potential for crime at bay.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

“That is not going to occur at this casino for two reasons,” McGlothin — who is local to the area and a grandfather of four himself — told the Bristol Herald Courier. “First, we won’t allow it, and second, we don’t think that anybody with any sense that owned this place would run the risk of losing their license. That’s what would happen to us.”

But while insisting that he would bring in “more money for law enforcement … education and … detection of crime,” he also admitted that “it’s happening all over the country, and it’s happening here day and night.”

McGlothlin changed the topic to a more upbeat one — job creation in the tiny town — saying the 2,000 new jobs the casino will initially create both directly and ancillarily — which he projects will swell to 5,000 seven years out — will preclude drug problems, apparently assuming that worried residents were only talking about future employees when it comes to drug use concerns.

“This will provide jobs, and you won’t have to take drugs to be happy,” he told the Herald Courier.

On the topic of concerns over an increase in gambling addiction that a local casino could spur, McGlothlin said his team will “try to address [addiction concerns] with some sort of educational program, [but]  we are not the caretakers of every single person on this earth.”

Far From a Done Deal

Despite the outpouring of apprehension, the Bristol City Council passed a motion to support the casino by a 4-0 vote this on Tuesday.

Now the Virginia General Assembly will have to change state laws to allow casino gambling for the project to get moving, and won’t happen before the 2019 legislative session at the earliest.

If approved, lawmakers would pave the way for a 90,000-square-foot casino with an attached hotel of 600 to 1,000 rooms. Developers are promising a 25,000-square-foot sports book, dozens of retail stores and restaurants, as well as a large space dedicated to child care.

They also claim that some 80 percent of casino patrons would come from out of state, generating an estimated $26.8 million in annual tax revenue for the city.