Drafting emergency casino gaming regulations in the south-west Virginian city of Bristol in September was just the beginning of a long regulatory process that might take until late spring 2020 to ensure the proper supervision of gambling venues and their employees.
The First Possible Opening Date to be in April
The initial timeline for the opening of a temporary Bristol casino has been changed and the venue is now planned to be launched in April 2022 at the earliest, according to Kevin Hall, executive director of the Virginia Lottery. The project was approved by the Board of the Virginia Lottery during its quarterly meeting on 15 July.
Hard Rock Bristol Hotel & Casino was intended to host a temporary gaming venue in part of the Bristol Mall in the second half of next year, while the rest of the construction activities occur in another part of the property.
However, in a Zoom meeting with the Virginia House of Delegates Appropriations Committee, Hall expressed doubts that any operator will be able to open a temporary casino due to the checks and procedures they need to complete first. Temporary operation is allowed under the legislation, but applicants need to undergo background checks and be granted a license first.
Earlier this month, voters from Bristol and three other Virginian cities gave green light to gambling in the localities via a local referendum. The $400 million casino-resort will be located in Bristol Mall and will feature 350 hotel rooms that could be increased to 700.
Other amenities will include a casino, sportsbook, conference center, live-music venue, amphitheater, bars, restaurants, retail shops, spa, pool, and more. Apart from opening to the public, the temporary facility will serve as a training ground for casino employees.
Commenting on the referendum approval at the beginning of this month, Bristol Mayor Bill Hartley said that this was a great opportunity to have an internationally-recognized company like Hard Rock in the city and this will be beneficial to the local tourism and economy and will attract other businesses as well. The project already received positive feedback from citizens earlier this year.
The Regulatory Process in a Nutshell
The next regulatory steps following the approval of the referendum are a statutory deadline for emergency casino gambling regulations to take effect and the beginning of drafting permanent casino regulations by 7 April 2021. Then casino operators might begin to apply for licenses, which will happen in late spring or early summer 2021.
Applicants and key management will be subject to rigorous criminal and financial background checks that might take up to a year to be finalized (between late spring and early summer 2022).
According to Hall, it is not only casinos that must be licensed, but also their suppliers, which adds additional time to the process.
“I’d also mention that suppliers would also need to be vetted and licensed by the agency. That’s the companies providing slot machines – even companies that provide (playing) cards and dice. And any employees would also have had to be vetted before a temporary casino could open.”Bristol mayor Bill Hartley
In this case, the most plausible date for the opening of the first temporary casinos will be from mid-2022 to early 2023.