Allie Evangelista, Bristol Casino President

"The first five months of Hard Rock's Bristol Casino have been a tremendous success"

Allie Evangelista, Hard Rock Bristol Casino President.
Reading time 3 min

Back in July, Hard Rock made history in Virginia by opening the state's first casino through the debut of its temporary Bristol gaming property. The full-service venue "Bristol Casino - Future Home of Hard Rock" has proved an early success since then, welcoming thousands of guests to what promises to become an economic driver for the city and wider region.

"For starters, the first five months have been a tremendous success," Bristol Casino President Allie Evangelista tells Yogonet in an exclusive interview. "One barometer of that success is that we served guests from all 50 states within the first two months of opening."

The temporary site has 30,000 square feet of casino space featuring 870 slots, 21 tables, and a sportsbook, all open to the public 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. The space includes a main casino floor as well as non-smoking and high-limit gaming areas. It also offers restaurants such as Lucky’s, Brick’d, and sports bar and lounge Bristol Bar.

Temporary Hard Rock Bristol casino's opening in July

This varied offering of casino gaming and non-gambling amenities is helping Hard Rock navigate uncharted territory, having become the first operator to open a casino in The Old Dominion. It is a challenge that Evangelista and her team are undertaking with confidence.

"We’re excited to be the first casino to open in VA, a historic milestone of which our team is very proud," she says. "This new market has a lot of long-term potential, as guests now don’t have to travel long distances to enjoy world-class gaming opportunities."

But as it celebrates its early success, Hard Rock also has its eyes set on the future. Earlier this month, the company broke ground on the permanent casino at the former Bristol Mall, at 500 Gate City Highway, in a ceremony attended by Hard Rock executives, local elected officials and business and community leaders. The $400 million property, set to open in July 2024, will replace the temporary venue once completed.

The permanent casino will include a 3,200-seat performance venue and a 20,000-person capacity outdoor entertainment venue. The casino will be open 24/7 and is expected to generate about 1,200 to 1,500 jobs. It will also include two hotel towers, a pool, and more.

"The groundbreaking for the permanent casino continues our momentum and is a visible sign to the local community that we are another meaningful step closer to our ultimate goal of opening the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol," notes Evangelista.

The Bristol Casino President defines the Hard Rock brand as synonymous with fun and hospitality, two qualities that will shine through once the full casino opens its doors. "The permanent venue will be a destination-style resort, offering exceptional gaming, lodging, dining, entertainment and retail amenities that appeal to all of our audiences," Evangelista tells Yogonet.

But Hard Rock's status as Virginia's only casino won't last forever. The gaming venue is one of four currently planned in the state. Out of those, Rivers Casino Portsmouth is the one that will open next, with a plan to start welcoming guests by as of January 15. Proposed casinos are also underway in Danville and Norfolk. Richmond, for its part, shoot down the proposal to host a casino last year, although it is now seeking to revive those efforts as Petersburg also attempts to join the gaming race with its own project. 

"2023 will be a busy year, as we continue serving guests at ‘Bristol Casino – Future Home of Hard Rock’ and as we make construction progress towards completing the permanent facility," Evangelista says. But while competition is expected going forward, she believes that there may be certain advantages to being the first casino in Virginia. 

"As guests enjoy the legendary Hard Rock experience, they will want to come back for more fun," the executive noted. And she might be right - it only took a few weeks for players to take notice of the casino, with more than 30,000 guests signing up for Hard Rock's new customer loyalty program by August, less than a month after opening.

Being a first mover into the space has paid off for Hard Rock Bristol. With the property being close to Interstate 81 and the summer tourist season in full swing during the weeks that followed its launch, the casino was able to take advantage of these factors, and the public response has thus far been very positive.

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