Posted on: October 31, 2022, 02:33h. 

Last updated on: October 30, 2022, 05:07h.

Hard Rock Bristol in Virginia just north of the Tennessee border plans to break ground next month on what will become the casino’s permanent resort property.

Hard Rock Bristol casino Virginia gambling
The entrance to Hard Rock Bristol was once where shoppers entered the Belk department store at the Bristol Mall. Hard Rock Bristol plans to break ground on its permanent $400 million resort in November 2022. (Image: The Washington Post)

Hard Rock Bristol in July opened a temporary casino space inside what was formerly the Bristol Mall. The Belk department store-turned-casino offers 870 slot machines and 20 table games.

Construction of the permanent Hard Rock Bristol home is expected to begin sometime in November. Hard Rock International, owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, plans to spend $400 million to build a new from-the-ground-up hotel and resort with 300 guestrooms, 14 restaurants, including a Hard Rock Café, 2,000-seat indoor concert space, and an outdoor amphitheater capable of accommodating 20,000 people.

Hard Rock Bristol’s permanent casino floor is to measure more than 100,000 square feet. The space will  have 1,500 slot machines, 55 table games, and a sportsbook.

Temporary Casino Exceeds Expectations

Hard Rock Bristol is one of four commercial casinos being built in Virginia. The temporary casino space made history by being the first legal gambling operation to open in the history of the commonwealth.

The temporary casino has exceeded all expectations.

Speaking with the Bristol Herald Courier, Hard Rock Bristol President Allie Evangelista revealed that the casino has welcomed nearly 40,000 people who have made a total of 109,000 visits since its July opening. Residents of all 50 states have ventured to the Bristol casino during its first full three months in operation.

Perhaps more promising is that Evangelista says the casino has signed up more than 50,000 people for Hard Rock’s rewards program, Unity. The Bristol casino exec said that’s about double what the company forecast over the property’s first quarter of business.

Having 50,000 people in our database after four months of operation is very strong,” she explained. Patrons can sign up for Unity both in-person and online.

About 1,100 Bristol, Va., residents have entered the casino — or about 8% of the town’s adult population. Bristol, Va., is an independent city that is surrounded by Washington County. Over 2,200 county residents have also visited the casino.

Visitors from neighboring Bristol, Tn., have so far accounted for the bulk of the casino visits. About 4,000 residents from Tennessee’s Washington County, which includes Bristol, Tn., have made the short trip north across the Tennessee-Virginia border to Hard Rock Bristol.

Busy Season Coming?

Evangelista said it’s tough to predict visitor numbers and gaming revenue in the months ahead, as Hard Rock Bristol is entering its first fall and winter. But Evangelista — who came to Hard Rock Bristol from Penn Entertainment (formerly Penn National Gaming) after serving in a variety of leadership roles  — says the cold typically means more gamblers.

“September is typically a slower month, just change of seasons, people going back to school, that type of thing,” Evangelista said. “We saw a little bit of decline in visitation but very normal with other markets.

It’s a question mark what is going to happen in winter because it’s an area with a lot of options when the weather is nice. When winter comes, it limits the options of what is there to do in free time. We expect to be busy,” she concluded.

Hard Rock Bristol generated gross gaming revenue (GGR) of $14.3 million in September. Slots accounted for more than $11.3 million.