Bristol City Council received mostly positive feedback regarding the casino resort project, one of five Virginia legislature has approved to be constructed and operated in 5 cities located along the state line. At a public hearing on Thursday city officials heard in-person and e-mailed comments from citizens regarding the proposal by Hard Rock International, the only candidate that responded to the request for information.
Hard Rock’s Proposal
The Florida-based casino and hospitality operator submitted a detailed 307-page report on plans of how to transform the former Bristol Mall, the chosen location for the casino resort. The complex will have, besides the casino, a 750-room hotel, restaurants and other fine-dining outlets, shops, a convention centre and a concert hall. According to the letter sent to city officials by Hard Rock’s Chairman, President and CEO Jim Allen, the resort is estimated to deliver between $15 million and $20 million in local tax annually.
As one resident of Bristol had raised concerns in an e-mail regarding the financial impact of the project, asking City Council to introduce a safety net by seeking an expert analysis before issuing the final approval, City Manager Randall Eads responded that he would have considered that option provided there were more candidates. Since the project submitted by the Seminole Tribe-owned Hard Rock was the sole one, he considered hiring a gaming analyst unnecessary.
Project Hailed but Outcome Unknown
A business owner expressed the opinion that the idea to have a casino-type resort in the city is great as it would allow for the area to attract high paying jobs, while another was barely hiding his enthusiasm in the e-mail he sent to the Council.
Despite the overall positive attitude towards the proposed project demonstrated at the public hearing, Randall Eads stressed on the fact that the casino complex had still a long way to go before turning into reality, asking for the city officials to go out among the people and talk about the good things this project would bring to the city and the area.
Bristol Mayor Neal Osborne pointed out the fate of the casino resort would be decided in November, the earliest the public referendum required by law can be held, calling all residents to go out then and express their wish, regardless of whether they are for the project or against it. “But I do believe most of the city supports it”, he added.
City Council, at their May 26 meeting will review a resolution that will name Hard Rock International as the preferred casino operator, and if the resolution is passed, the application will go to the Virginia Lottery Board for approval. When the state regulator approves it, an official request for a casino referendum to be added to the November ballot can be made.