Bristol Residents Support Casino Proposal at Public Hearing
The Bristol City Council heard the public on the proposed development scheme during a special hearing on the matter which took place last Thursday in the Bristol city hall building.
City residents were able to voice their opinion on the proposed casino complex in person or via emailed comments that were read during the hearing.
After the Virginia Legislature permitted the development of Las Vegas-style casino venues in five cash-strapped cities around the state, it appears Bristol is progressing faster than any of the other four cities.
Bristol leaders invited last month interested operators to submit casino proposals by May 8. Florida-based gaming and hospitality giant Hard Rock International was the sole company to file such a proposal and it is now looking to educate the public on the benefits its casino resort will create for Bristol and the surrounding area.
Under the casino legislation approved by lawmakers, it is up to city residents to decide whether their cities should host casinos or not via citywide referendums. Bristol can place such a referendum on November 3’s ballot.
Project Gets Public Support
The majority of Bristol residents attending the Thursday hearing expressed positive views on the casino proposal, highlighting the amount of new high-paying jobs the project would create and of state and out-of-state visitors it would attract.
One Bristol resident said that as a business owner he thought the development of a casino was a great idea.
However, another commenter wrote in an email to city leaders that an independent study on the financial impact of the casino should be conducted before the city holds a referendum. City Manager Randall Eads said that he planned on hiring a gaming analyst when there was the possibility of more than one casino proposals to be considered.
Mr. Eads said that as they received only one proposal, he decided to “not move forward in hiring a gaming analyst to review this proposal.”
Despite the overwhelmingly positive comments, Hard Rock’s proposal still has a long way to go before being materialized.
The Bristol City Council will review a resolution at its upcoming May 26 meeting to name Hard Rock its preferred casino operator. If the resolution passes, a casino application will be submitted with the Virginia Lottery Board.
If the gaming regulator approves the application, the city will then officially be able to request to hold a casino referendum this coming November.
Bristol Mayor Neal Osborne encouraged residents to go out and vote in November no matter whether they support or oppose the casino scheme. The official also noted that he believes the majority of residents support it.
In a two-page cover letter and a 307-page plan, Hard Rock said that it plans to build a casino complex on the 46-acre Bristol Industrial Mall site. The property will feature a casino and a hotel with 750 rooms and suites, a fitness center, and a spa.
In addition, the complex will feature meeting and event spaces, an indoor/outdoor Hard Rock Live entertainment center, retail outlets for high-end luxury goods and stores that sell name brands at a discount.
According to early estimates, the resort could generate 2,000 new jobs during its first year of operation and more than 5,200 jobs within its first seven years, and could annually bring more than 4 million visitors to the city and thus become a significant “economic engine” for Bristol and the entire region.