Church Mails Literature Opposing Bristol, VA Casino
Fighting against the project
A church near Bristol, Virginia has mailed out an eight-page magazine to local residents, outlining reasons why voters should oppose a proposed casino project in the region.
The city’s residents will be going to the polls in November to decide whether or not a casino can be developed at an old mall in the area. While many local business owners have come out in favor of such a move, the Abingdon Church of Christ’s minister staunchly opposes it.
The magazine does note that there is an economic issue in Bristol and that the promoters probably have good intentions. The magazine claims, however, that the development of a casino would only harm people. Minister Bill Haywood pointed to statistics that show how similar projects in other regions have hurt people “over and over again.”
Some of the potential harms mentioned include domestic violence, gambling addiction, bankruptcies, suicide attempts, and different forms of crime. Various references, sources, and studies are cited in the magazine; three other churches in the region were also involved in putting together the publication.
The document concludes by saying: “Any decision to go after the fool’s gold of casinos will be a losing decision. If a casino comes to Bristol, Virginia, we all lose.”
When asked by local media about the jobs that the casino would create in the area, the minister responded by saying: “The other data that we have shows people are hurt, families are hurt. Divorce, divorces goes up dramatically because of gambling, children are hurt, wives are hurt, small businesses.”
Supporters believe that the casino could attract four million people each year, as well as indirectly and directly ensure about 3,500 jobs.
They also believe that about 80% of the casino patrons would come from outside of the city, as a number of nearby states have restrictive gambling laws. Other positive aspects advocates point to include additional tourism opportunities and tax revenue.
While acknowledging the potential tax revenue from the casino, minister Haywood questioned if this money would outweigh the harm to families.
Hard Rock’s plans
Hard Rock International is the developer of the casino project, alongside Par Ventures and the United Company. Hard Rock’s senior vice president of casino and business development Sean Caffrey laid out the company’s plans if the project gets the green light after the November 3 vote.
Hard Rock will apply for a Virginia gaming license, expecting to operate a temporary casino facility located in a portion of the mall while waiting for the actual casino to be completed. The plan is to have the full casino open in 2022 or by the start of 2023.
Casinos in Virginia
Currently, there are no commercial or tribal casinos in the Virginia, but legislation passed this year to allow casinos in the state, pending local votes. On November 3, residents of Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Danville will vote on similar casino projects in their respective cities.
The Pamunkey Indian Tribe believes its $500m project in Norfolk would help the city to recover from “one of the greatest hits to the economy in our lifetime.” Rush Street Gaming and Caesars Entertainment are involved in the Portsmouth and Danville projects, respectively.
The city of Richmond can also host a casino, but it has not yet chosen a casino operator. It can postpone its public vote on the issue until an appropriate partner is found.