Posted on: March 31, 2022, 11:41h. 

Last updated on: March 31, 2022, 12:03h.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol will open a temporary gaming venue on July 8. The 30,000-square-foot space will offer guests approximately 900 slot machines, 20 table games, and a sportsbook.

Hard Rock Bristol casino Virginia gamblingHard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol will utilize the former Bristol Mall and a new hotel to create a gaming and entertainment destination near the Virginia-Tennessee border. The resort is expected to open in 2025. (Image: Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol)

The temporary Hard Rock Bristol casino will feature smoking and non-smoking gaming sections, plus a restaurant and sports bar with entertainment capabilities for live music.

I am pleased by the significant progress that [Hard Rock Bristol President] Allie Evangelista and her team are making toward a July 8 grand opening celebration for Bristol.” Jon Lucas, chief operating officer of Hard Rock International, said in a release.

One of the greatest challenges Evangelista faces between now and the July 8 opening is staffing issues. Hard Rock Bristol’s temporary casino space needs 600 full-time workers, Hard Rock said.

The casino is actively hiring for various positions, including gaming, food and beverage operations, and guest services.

Where Gaming Push Began

Virginia legalized as many as five brick-and-mortar commercial casinos in 2020. The law qualified a handful of economically struggling cities to consider gaming developments to revitalize their regions. The undertakings can only proceed with local support from voters.

Residents in four of those cities have embraced gaming as an economic lifeline. Along with Bristol, casinos have been ratified in Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Danville. Richmond remains undecided.

Bristol is where the gaming push originated. Local businessmen Jim McGlothlin and Clyde Stacy — who amassed their wealth through the coal industry — successfully lobbied state lawmakers into backing casinos for troubled cities such as their own.

McGlothlin and Stacy said casinos could breathe new life into cities experiencing deep declines in their tax bases and revenue. Casinos, the pair argued, could also help rejuvenate retail shopping malls like the Bristol Mall.

The retail complex has sat closed since August of 2017. The mall was once the business epicenter of the Virginia town, which straddles the Virginia-Tennessee border and has a Bristol, Tennessee, market share.

More than five years since JCPenney, Sears, and Belk fled, the Bristol Mall is now set for its next chapter as the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol.

Virginia’s First Casino

It seems quite fitting that Bristol is the first Virginia city to commence casino operations with slot machines and table games. The temporary casino will be located inside the mall, reutilized as part of the overall casino resort.

Hard Rock says it expects to spend $400,000 outfitting the interim Bristol casino. The overall project budget is $300 million, most of which will build the resort’s new 750-room hotel and resort.

Along with a casino and hotel, Hard Rock Bristol will have an outdoor resort-style pool complex, 3,200-seat concert theater, convention space, a spa, and numerous restaurants and bars.

Once finished, the permanent casino will be expected to house nearly 3,000 slot machines, 100 table games, and a sportsbook. The resort is slated to open in 2025.