Bristol Casino Opening Slated For July 8, Marks First Virginia Casino To Open

Written By Dann Stupp on March 31, 2022
Virginia casino opening

The first Virginia casino opening will come in three months when a temporary Bristol gaming facility welcomes gamblers on July 8.

Officials recently announced the debut date for the facility: “Bristol Casino, future home of Hard Rock.”

The scaled-down but full-service version will precede the full resort opening. Then, the fully complete Hard Rock Casino and Resort Bristol is expected to open sometime in 2024.

First Virginia casino opening is long time in making

Bristol will beat its counterparts in Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth to become the first Virginia casino to open.

Voters in all four cities overwhelmingly voted in favor of casinos in late 2020. Earlier that year, Virginia lawmakers designated each city as eligible to host a casino referendum, and residents ultimately gave the green light. (Voters in Richmond nixed their referendum in 2021 but are likely to get a do-over on Election Day this year.)

These will be the first full-fledged casino-resorts in the commonwealth’s history. And Bristol casino executives determined early on that they wanted to be the first to begin accepting bets.

Now, the date is set: Friday, July 8. That is just after the Fourth of July holiday.

The Bristol casino will be located at the site of the former Bristol Mall. In fact, officials recently announced the first Hard Rock Bristol signage on the property, which is located at 500 Gate City Highway.

As Jon Lucas, chief operating officer of Hard Rock International, stated:

“We are excited to open the casino and welcome guests. As Virginia’s first casino, Bristol Casino, Future Home of Hard Rock will be a wonderful addition to the Hard Rock global portfolio of dining, hotel and entertainment properties. I am pleased by the significant progress that Allie Evangelista and her team are making toward a July 8 grand opening celebration for Bristol.”

Recent hire and veteran gaming executive Evangelista, of course, is the new Hard Rock Bristol president. In all, officials expect to hire 600 employees in time for the July 8 casino opening. As of Thursday, nearly 100 job openings were listed.

What to expect at Bristol Casino, future home of Hard Rock

The $400 million Hard Rock Casino Resort Bristol will ultimately be a major attraction on the Virginia-Tennessee border.

So, what features and attractions will that final version of the property have? According to officials, the temporary casino will include 100,000 square feet of gaming space, a sportsbook, 350 hotel rooms, live music venues and more.

But what about the temporary casino? Upon the July 8 opening, Bristol Casino, future home of Hard Rock, will feature:

  • 30,000 square feet of gaming space
  • Sportsbook
  • 900 slot machines
  • 20 table games
  • Restaurant
  • Food court
  • Sports bars (smoking and non-smoking)
  • High-limit gaming areas

Hard Rock’s opening in Bristol can’t come soon enough. From the get-go, officials touted their desire to open a temporary casino so they could jumpstart casino gambling in Virginia.

And, apparently, the idea has caught on. Officials behind the upcoming Norfolk casino are also looking to open a temporary facility before year’s end.

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Dann Stupp

Dann Stupp is a longtime sports journalist who’s written and edited for The Athletic, USA Today, ESPN, and other outlets. He lives in Lexington, Virginia.

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