Hard Rock
Bristol voters have approved the proposed $400 million Hard Rock Casino Bristol, which is set to be built on the site of the now-closed Bristol Mall. Rendering courtesy Alliance Group

Virginia’s casino expansion effort claimed a big victory Tuesday as four proposals for Las Vegas-style gambling venues were approved by residents of the cities that would host them.

Under a sweeping gambling reform approved by state lawmakers this past spring, the cities of Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth, Norfolk, and Richmond were allowed to hold citywide referendums on whether they wanted to host casinos.

A casino question was put on the November 3 ballot in Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth, and Norfolk. Richmond residents will be able to vote on the matter at a later date. According to early results, voters in all four cities have approved overwhelmingly the construction of casino properties in a bid to improve their struggling economies.

Bristol Residents Approve Hard Rock Casino

The Bristol City Council named earlier this year Hard Rock International as its preferred casino partner. The major gaming and hospitality company plans to build a $400 million casino resort at the former Bristol Mall.

According to early results, the massive project received 5,547 affirmative votes and 2,221 negative ones.

Hard Rock’s resort is expected to create up to 2,000 new jobs once it is fully operational and generate between $15 million and $20 million in tax revenue for the city as well as millions of gaming tax revenue that would be divided among Bristol and 11 other Southwest Virginia localities.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol will feature a casino with 2,700 slot machines, 100 table games, and a sportsbook, a 350-room hotel with a pool and an outdoor entertainment area, seven dining outlets, four bars, a 3,200-seat indoor entertainment venue, an outdoor entertainment venue with capacity for 20,000, a Hard Rock Cafe, retail space, and a 35,000-square-foot meeting and convention venue, among other amenities.

How Danville Citizens Voted

A casino will also be coming to Danville after residents overwhelmingly supported a proposal from Caesars Entertainment Inc. The local referendum passed with 13,022 Danville residents voting in favor and 5,941 registering opposition to the project.

Caesars wants to build a hotel and casino resort at the former Dan River Mills industrial complex in the Schoolfield area. The company said it would invest $400 million into the property and promised to hire around 1,300 people at $15 per hour minimum, buy the city an ambulance and a firetruck, and pay $15 million in an upfront payment for the right to operate a casino in Danville. It would pay another $5 million for the Schoolfield site.

Caesars Virginia will feature a 300-room hotel, a casino with slot machines, table games, and a sportsbook, a full-service spa, a 2,500-seat live entertainment theater, a 35,000-square-foot meeting and convention facility, and multiple bars and restaurants.

Now as city voters have approved the project, Caesars expects to break ground in the second half of 2021 and open its resort in the fall of 2023.

Portsmouth Citizens Say ‘Yes’ to Rush Street Gaming Casino

Portsmouth voters too approved a casino proposal for the city. About 67% of all votes cast favored a project by Chicago-based gaming and hospitality company Rush Street Gaming. The Portsmouth City Council approved Rush Street’s proposal this past May.

The company plans to build a $300-million casino complex that will be called Rivers Casino Portsmouth and will be located along I-264 in the new Entertainment District on Victory Boulevard.

The property will feature a casino with slot machines, table games, and poker, several restaurants and bars, a hotel, and a conference center. It is expected to create more than 1,300 permanent jobs and 1,400 construction jobs.

Rush Street expects its property to generate an estimated $16.3 million in annual tax revenue to its host city. The company will pay another $10 million for the Victory Boulevard site.

After the results of the referendum were announced, Rush Street issued a statement to thank Portsmouth voters. The company further noted that “Rivers Casino Portsmouth will be a proud community partner, a great workplace, and a strong economic engine for Portsmouth and Hampton Roads.”

Norfolk Voters Approve Pamunkey Tribe Casino

A proposal for a casino resort along the Elizabeth River, next to Harbor Park in Norfolk garnered support from more than 65% of the city residents who cast their votes on the matter.

The Pamunkey Indian Tribe in partnership with Tennessee billionaire businessman John Yarbrough can now move forward with a $500-million plan for a hotel and casino complex that will feature a gaming facility, a 300-room hotel, a steak and seafood restaurant, a sports bar and grill, a spa, a cafe, and a 2,500 entertainment venue.

The property is expected to bring in between $26 million and $31 million in gaming and sales taxes as well as an estimated 6.2 million visitors every year. Pamunkey tribal leaders said that the project would generate more than 2,000 construction jobs and about 2,500 full-time jobs when the resort is fully operational.