Bristol Facing Gaming Opposition

Bristol, Virginia could be the site of a huge casino project set to begin in 2021, but it will all come down to a vote on November 3. Earlier this year, lawmakers in Virginia were able to pass new legislation to allow casino gambling in a state that has never had it before.

Most industry experts believe that voters in Bristol were set to pass a referendum in November to allow a casino to be built, but the decision is getting interesting. Four churches in Virginia have teamed up to campaign against the new casino project in hopes of getting residents to “Vote No,” later this fall.

Two of the churches that are a part of this campaign are from Bristol, while the other two  are from Abingdon and Lebanon. These four groups have funded a campaign that attempts to warn residents about the dangers and risks of casino gambling.

Earlier this month, residents in Bristol received a magazine that was designed by these churches, and it was full of anti-gambling propaganda. One of the risks of gambling, according to these church groups, is addiction.

The churches have also warned residents about the dangers associated with casinos, and have pointed to high crime rates in other cities with casinos. It’s unclear if the churches will be taking additional steps as the vote nears, but supporters of the referendum will likely respond at some point as well.

Bristol Mall Set to Be Renovated

Hard Rock International is set to invest over $300 million in the project that is set to take place at the vacant Bristol Mall. Businessmen Jim McGlothlin and Clyde Stacy were instrumental in getting sports betting legalized, especially after partnering with Hard Rock International.

McGlothlin and Stacy campaigned to lawmakers in Virginia the benefits of legalizing sports betting, and they also wanted specific cities targeted. The two men suggested that residents in five cities that have been hit hard economically vote this November on whether or not to launch sports betting.

Hard Rock International announced that the proposed project will bring over 2,000 new full-time jobs to the Bristol area, with the average salary of these jobs being $45,000 per year.  The poverty rate in Bristol was over 20 percent in 2018, which is almost double the national average.

Even though the project has yet to receive the official “green light,” Hard Rock International has already unveiled the blueprint. Along with a two-level casino floor, the project will also have an outside entertainment venue that can host up to 20,000 people.

A 350-room hotel will also be built at the site, and it will come equipped with a convention and meeting space. Four bars, seven restaurants, a 3,200 capacity indoor theatre, and retail shopping were also included in the blueprint.

Other Cities Voting in November

Bristol residents will not be the only ones voting this November, as four other cities also have casino referendums to decide on. The four other cities holding this referendum vote are Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Richmond.

There has been opposition in these other cities as well, but Bristol is facing the largest amount of criticism. Virginia has always had very strict laws then it comes to gambling, and many in the state believe it should remain that way.

The gambling legislation has already been signed by Governor Ralph Northam, but no action will be taken until the voters have their say. This is not an “all or nothing” vote, as each city will make its own decision in November.


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