Virginia Churches Oppose Casino in Bristol, Asks, ‘What Would Jesus Do?’

Posted on: October 20, 2020, 12:31h. 

Last updated on: October 20, 2020, 02:03h.

Some Virginia churches are in opposition to a proposed casino resort. They’re are asking area residents, “What would Jesus do?” The answer, they preach, is that their Lord and Savior would vote “No” on a local gambling referendum.

Virginia casino Hard Rock Bristol
Bristol, Va., billboards, seen here, are displaying faith leaders’ opposition to a potential casino. (Image: NBC Bristol)

On November 3, voters in five Virginia cities face ballot questions asking if they support allowing one casino to be built in their hometowns. Bristol, Danville, Richmond, Norfolk, and Portsmouth all meet the criteria to qualify under legislation passed earlier this year that allows casinos in economically distressed cities.

Faith groups in Bristol are urging constituents to reject the casino question.

What would Jesus do? He would definitely vote no on the casino referendum,” one billboard in the southwestern Virginia town reads.

The Bristol Herald Courier reports that the billboards are being paid for by a coalition of area churches: Fellowship Chapel, Friendship Baptist, Victory Baptist, Belle Meadows Baptist, Liberty Baptist, Throne of Grace Baptist Tabernacle, River Bend Baptist, East Bristol Baptist, and Parkway Baptist.

Together, they are behind the group, “No Bristol Casino.” The font of the organization’s logotypes the letters “sin” in “Casino” in red.

“I can’t see anything good, long-term, coming from a casino,” declared Scott Price, pastor of Fellowship Chapel.

Holy Hostility

To qualify for a commercial casino, a Virginia city must have reported an unemployment rate of at least five percent in 2018, a poverty rate of at least 20 percent in 2017, and a population decrease of at least 20 percent from 1990 to 2016.

Despite the calamitous economic conditions, numerous churches say casinos are not the solution. In fact, they believe it will only make their region worse.

“Most of the ‘market’ for gambling comes from those in despair, seeking meaning and a future. The most important thing a church can do to undercut the local casino is to preach the gospel,” said Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberty Commissions President Russell Moore.

A mailer sent last month to Bristol voters claimed that “gambling is a psychological addiction,” and “carries the same life-wrecking potential as cocaine.” The flyer asserted that gamblers are “harder to rehabilitate than alcoholics.”

Virginia’s casino effort was led by Bristol businessmen Jim McGlothlin and Clyde Stacey. Since the General Assembly and Gov. Ralph Northam (D) passed the casino bill, Bristol, McGlothlin, and Stacey have partnered with Hard Rock International.

The proposed project, Hard Rock Bristol, is a $400 million undertaking that would renovate the vacant Bristol Mall into a casino and entertainment destination. Along with slot machines and table games, the complex would feature a hotel, convention center, numerous restaurants, shopping, and a music venue.

This week, Hard Rock officials said they would expect the property to bring up to 3,500 jobs to the area. Jon Lucas, chief operating officer of Hard Rock International, took a page out of his religious opponents’ playbook in describing the potential resurrection of Bristol.

“To be a part of and to help in the rebirth of a city is exciting to us,” explained Lucas.

Anti-Casino Messages

Along with its “What would Jesus do?” billboard, “No Bristol Casino” has paid for the following billboard messages:

Bristol, Don’t Be Fooled: All That Glitters Is Not Gold! A Casino Is Fool’s Gold! Vote NO!”

It’s a FACT: Where Casinos Go Up, Communities Go Down. Vote NO on November 3rd.

Don’t Think A Casino Is Going To Be Your Savior! It Will Turn Out To Be Your Satan! Vote NO!