Virginia Hard Rock Breaks Ground

Hard Rock International’s $400 million Hard Rock Hotel & Casino recently held a groundbreaking ceremony (l.) for the permanent facility, expected to open in spring 2024. A temporary casino is operating in the former Bristol Mall.

A groundbreaking ceremony recently was held in Virginia at Hard Rock International’s $400 million Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Bristol. The permanent casino is expected to open in spring 2024. Currently Hard Rock Bristol is operating at a temporary location in the former Belk store at the Bristol Mall.

Allie Evangelista, president of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol, said, “This is an exciting day for Bristol. Our temporary casino has been a tremendous success, and we already have welcomed guests from all 50 states. I cannot wait for the next step, when we open the permanent casino in 2024 and have even more entertainment, dining and music amenities to offer our customers.”

The 300,000-square-foot permanent casino will offer 1,300 slots, 50 table games, a sportsbook, food and drink options, including the iconic Hard Rock Café, 3,200-seat performance venue and a 20,000-person outdoor entertainment venue.

The venue is expected to create 1,200 to 1,500 jobs and attract 2 million to 4 million visitors annually. A 2019 state-sponsored study projected the casino could generate $3.7 million in yearly local tax revenue for the city. The Virginia Lottery reported the temporary casino has generated at least $14 million in revenue each month from August through October.

Jon Lucas, chief operating officer at Hard Rock International, said, “From the very start, this property’s economic and community impact has surpassed expectations, and we are thrilled to unveil what’s coming next. Building on our momentum, and with the incredible support from the Virginia Lottery and the Bristol community, we are ready to begin the next chapter.”

Meanwhile, things are not going as smoothly in Richmond, which, like Bristol, was one of five cities approved by the legislature for a casino. Voters in 2021 narrowly rejected Urban One’s proposed $565 million ONE Casino + Resort. Earlier this year, Richmond was blocked from holding a do-over voter referendum after the General Assembly approved a budget that would block that vote until November 2023.

Petersburg officials are behind the move to prevent the Richmond casino, including state Senator Joe Morrissey, who said, “I’m going to fall on my sword on that one. I am not interested in two casinos.”

A legislative study concluded casinos in Richmond and in Petersburg, 25 miles apart, both could be profitable. The study said the Petersburg would be smaller and generate annual net gaming revenue of $140 million and the larger Richmond casino would generate $249 million. If both casinos were operating, the study said the state would receive $49 million in tax revenue.

Richmond officials are still pushing for the ONE Casino + Resort. The original development partner, Peninsula Pacific Entertainment was purchased on November 1 by Churchill Downs Inc., which stated it would continue “P2E’s ongoing effort, in partnership with in Richmond, Virginia.”

Elsewhere in Virginia, Rivers Casino in Portsmouth expects to open January 15, 2023. HeadWaters Casino in Norfolk plans to open a temporary location in March and a permanent location in 2024. Caesars Virginia in Danville also will open a temporary location in 2023 and a permanent casino in late 2024.