Virginia Gives Go-Ahead For State’s First Retail Casino

The Virginia Lottery Board has issued the first facility operator’s license to Hard Rock Bristol allowing it to open the first casino in the state. 

Hard Rock Bristol underwent background checks and an application review before the board approved the license with a 7-0 vote on April 27. The licensure approval is a big step to inching closer to casino gaming in Virginia. 

“I am proud of the tireless work by our Gaming Compliance Department and our legal counsel for conducting the necessary investigative work to assist the Board in its decision,” Virginia Lottery Acting Director Kelly T. Gee said in a press release. “There are still many steps to the finish line, but there is no doubt that this is an exciting time.”

When Will Virginia’s First Retail Casino Open?

Hard Rock is planning to open a temporary facility in early July at the former Bristol Mall with the full resort likely opening in 2024. 

The project has been brought to life by a partnership between Hard Rock Cafe, Inc., and local investors Jim McGlothlin of United Company and Clyde Stacy Par Ventures.  

When fully constructed it will feature 750 hotel rooms and over 2,700 slots it will have entertainment options, venues, dining, retailers, and both indoor and outdoor concert venues.  It will also include a racing experience, country music memorabilia experience, and an interactive sports simulator on top of all the other amenities.

Virginia Sports Betting Update

Virginians voted to legalize land-based casinos and online sports betting apps in November 2020. In addition to Bristol there were three other cities approved for land-based casinos:

  • Danville (Horseshoe Danville run by Caesars Entertainment)
  • Portsmouth (Rivers Casino Portsmouth, will have BetRivers Sportsbook)
  • Norfolk (Pamunkey Resort and Casino)

While online sports betting launched in 2021, each of these casinos will likely open in-person sportsbooks when they’re up and running. The opening dates for these casinos likely won’t be before 2023. 

Right now there are 11 mobile sports betting apps available in the state including popular ones like FanDuel, DraftKings, and BetMGM

Online sports betting has already brought in a large amount of handle to the state and has been going strong since the beginning. Since the launch sports wagering has brought in over $24.6 million in tax revenue.

In January alone the total handle set a record for the state with more than $485.5 million bets placed during the month. 

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