Virginia Churches Unite in Opposition of Bristol Casino, November Gambling Referendum

Posted on: September 21, 2020, 03:12h. 

Last updated on: September 21, 2020, 04:00h.

Four churches in Virginia are congregating to get out their message of opposition to a potential casino resort in Bristol.

Virginia casino Bristol gambling referendum
Bristol straddles the Virginia and Tennessee border, and a casino could be approved by voters on the northern half in November. (Image: American Planning Association)

Two churches in Bristol, and one each in nearby Abingdon and Lebanon, Virginia, are funding a campaign to warn voters on the alleged societal consequences of casino gambling. The religious groups recently sent out an eight-page magazine consisting of anti-gambling propaganda to Bristol residents.

Titled “House to House, Heart to Heart,” the magazine claims the Bible did not approve of gambling, and links casinos to addiction, financial problems, family falling-outs, and various crime. The churches classify gambling as a “chemical-free high.”

Gambling is a psychological addiction. Pathological gambling is classified as a major addiction, and carries the same life-wrecking potential as cocaine,” the magazine’s first page opines.

“Gamblers … are said to be harder to rehabilitate than alcoholics,” it additionally asserts.

The material touches on how casinos allegedly lead to higher rates of divorce, suicide, child abuse, bankruptcies, domestic violence, unemployment, and addiction.

November Referendum

On November 3, voters in five Virginia cities will be asked whether they want to approve a single casino in their respective towns. The cities of Bristol, Danville, Richmond, Norfolk, and Portsmouth all meet a slew of qualifying conditions in a casino bill that was signed by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) earlier this year.

The casinos are seen as a way to help lead an economic resurgence in the distressed cities. The churches, however, say gambling hurts society.

“The cost to families is devastating. Studies have demonstrated that gambling is ‘the single fasted-growing driver of bankruptcy,'” the magazine flyer declares. However, the anti-casino group is citing a 23-year-old study in the assertion.

“Vote Yes for Bristol,” the pro-casino group for the town’s casino hopes, says a “yes” vote on November 3 means jobs, tax revenue, tourism, and community money.

The campaign claims the casino, dubbed Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol, will result in more than 2,000 new jobs, $15 million in annual tax revenue for the city, and four million tourists each year to the area.

Project Details

Virginia businessmen Jim McGlothlin and Clyde Stacy led the campaign to convince lawmakers in the General Assembly to allow residents in certain cities to consider casinos as an economic stimulator.

McGlothlin and Stacy have partnered with Hard Rock International to invest $300 million to renovate the vacant Bristol Mall into a casino resort destination.

Representatives of the Hard Rock Bristol project unveiled a model of the facility last week. The blueprint calls for a two-level casino floor, outdoor entertainment venue with capacity to hold 20,000 people, 3,200-seat indoor theater, seven restaurants, four bars, retail shopping, convention and meeting space, and a 350-room hotel.

Hard Rock says the 2,000 new jobs forecast will come with an average annual wage of $45,000 per person.

According to the US Census Bureau, the median per person income for a Bristol resident was $22,900 in 2018. The poverty rate in Bristol that year was 20.5 percent, nearly double the 10.5 percent national average.