Friday, July 8, will go down in history among casino enthusiasts in Virginia, as the Hard Rock brand held the opening of its temporary Bristol Casino facility in the aforementioned city. The facility became the first brick-and-mortar casino to open in the state, and while all concerned recognized the temporary nature of the opening, the message was loud and clear: this is step one in a process that is intended to conclude in 2024 with the opening of a permanent casino.
The licence for a casino – the first such licence – was granted by state authorities in April, and just under three months later, the casino opened its doors Friday to a large crowd, which had queued up around the block to be among the first to play at a casino in the state. Within the next couple of years, they will have their choice of a few facilities, as other Virginia cities – namely Portsmouth, Norfolk and Danville – have announced their intention to open casinos by 2024.
The decision to open a casino in Bristol has been seen as a highly positive investment in an area which has been affected by the financial recession. The Hard Rock facility was built on the former site of the Bristol Mall and is understood to have created more than 600 new jobs in the city. The eventual permanent casino facility is expected to cover three times as much space as the temporary one and create further jobs – the estimate has been that it will employ as many as 1,500 locals.
For the moment, though, the talk is of the existing Bristol Casino which celebrated its opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and offers 870 slots, 21 gaming tables and a sportsbook facility. It is also home to a number of restaurants, which it is assumed will continue to run when the full casino is finished in 2024.
The Hard Rock brand is said to have had a particular interest in opening a facility in Bristol given its history in the music sphere on which Hard Rock built its initial fame. Bristol was designated in 1998 by the US Congress as the “Birthplace of country music”. Although Nashville in neighboring Tennessee has become known as the home of country music, Bristol was hugely influential in fostering the early artists who adapted folk music from their ancestral homes.
The city of Bristol seems to have taken to the idea of a new casino with some relish, and the excitement may have something to do with the fact that this is the first stage in a development that is going to expand. The bullish tagline of the current casino – “the future home of Hard Rock” symbolizes a promise that has been missing from cities like Bristol in recent years, and the presence of a big-name brand in a city which had felt economically “left behind” has given many residents a little extra spring in their step in recent months.