The City Council is expected to seek a November referendum from the Circuit Court

Virginia: Hard Rock and local partners pre-certified to operate Bristol casino

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol project is forecast to create 2,000 jobs with combined annual wages of $90 M and to generate between $15 M and $20 M annually for the city in tax revenues, in addition to the city’s share of gaming tax revenue.
2020-07-14
Reading time 2:41 min
The pre-certification from the Virginia Lottery Board allows the city to petition the Circuit Court to conduct a public referendum Nov. 3 on whether to allow casino gaming at the vacant Bristol Mall. The project includes partners The United Company and Par Ventures, the firm that owns the mall property. The court order must be in place by Aug. 14.

The Virginia Lottery Board on Thursday pre-certified Hard Rock International and its local partners as the preferred casino operators for Bristol, Virginia. The pre-certification will allow the city to petition the Circuit Court to conduct a public referendum November 3 on whether to allow casino gaming at the vacant Bristol Mall on Gate City Highway. 

It includes partners The United Company and Par Ventures, the firm that owns the mall property and H.R. Bristol, LLC, the entity run by the partners that would operate the casino. All jointly submitted detailed information and had to meet criteria established by new legislation permitting casinos by referendum in Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Richmond, the Bristol Herald Courier reports.

“We appreciate the work of the Virginia Lottery in reviewing and approving our pre-certification application,” the Bristol casino team said in a written statement. “Now we look forward to the upcoming referendum, when Bristol, Virginia voters will have an historic opportunity to vote yes for the thousands of new, good-paying jobs and millions of dollars in additional tax revenue that the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol will bring to the city.”

The project is forecast to create 2,000 jobs with combined annual wages of $90 million and to generate between $15 million and $20 million annually for the city in tax revenues, in addition to the city’s share of gaming tax revenue. Part of the gaming tax revenue is to be divided among the other counties and cities of Southwest Virginia to further economic development, under terms set forth in the legislation.

“This project will provide Bristol with critically needed new funding for our schools, teachers and first responders, all while growing the economy both here in the city and all across the region. We are excited about today’s great news, and we can’t wait to communicate directly with voters in the months ahead about the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol and all it will do to make our city an even better place to call home,” the release states.

City Manager Randy Eads confirmed the city received the pre-certification notice Thursday. The City Council is expected to act Tuesday to seek a referendum from the Circuit Court. “At Tuesday’s council meeting, there will be a resolution for the council to direct me to file a petition with the Circuit Court to have a referendum on Nov. 3, 2020 as to whether casino gaming should be legal in the city of Bristol,” Eads said. The court order must be in place by Aug. 14, according to the legislation.

Submissions were required to include specific information regarding potential benefit and prospective revenues plus total value of the proposed gaming establishment; the proposed capital investment and the financial health of the proposer and any development partners; experience in the operations of casino gaming; security plans; economic development value and the potential for community reinvestment and redevelopment in an area in need of such, according to criteria provided by the Lottery Board.

Other criteria to be considered were the availability of city‐owned and privately owned assets, such as real property, including where there is only one location available or land under a development agreement between a potential operator and the city; the best financial interest of the city and the proposer’s status as a minority‐owned business as defined in state code; proposer’s commitment to solicit equity investment in the proposed casino from one or more minority‐owned businesses and commitment to solicit contracts with minority‐owned businesses for the purpose of goods and services.

The submission was more than 300 pages. “I think not only Hard Rock but The United Company and Par Ventures exceeded the Lottery Board’s expectations when they presented their packet on June 1,” Eads said.

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