Gambling Debate Rekindled in Virginia as Group Proposes Casino in Bristol

The new owners of the vacated Bristol Mall in Bristol, Virginia are considering the opportunity to turn the site into a casino resort, local news outlet the Bristol Herald Courier reported over the weekend.

The reports were confirmed by Clyde Stacy, the head of the group that acquired the 450,000-square-foot facility earlier this year. They have hired public relations firm Alliance Group Ltd. to assume lobbying responsibilities for the proposed development of a casino within a larger resort-style property.

The vacant mall could thus be turned into a casino complex that, aside from its gambling options, will feature multiple other entertainment and food and beverage facilities. According to original projections, a property of this kind would attract 80% of its visitors from outside Virginia. In addition, it would create more than 2,000 “good paying” jobs.

It also seems that the casino proposal might get the nod from the City Council, despite concerns related to the gambling portion of the scheme. City Manager Randy Eads has told local media that they have been working with the group that now owns the Bristol Mall for the past three months. Mr. Eads further pointed out that he has received mostly positive feedback from City Council members.

The Bristol official said that all concerns voiced City Councilor will be discussed with the Bristol Mall owners so that they are alleviated and everyone in Southwest Virginia is offered the best possible experience out of the proposed project.

A Casino Venue Requires Legislative Amendments

While the proposed casino project might have gained some traction among members of the Bristol City Council, it might hit a roadblock in the Virginia General Assembly. Casino gambling is illegal in the state under its current laws. In addition, Virginia lawmakers have a long history of rejecting any proposals for a change in the current status quo.

Commenting on the proposed Bristol casino, Sen. Bill Carrico has told local media that the effort could indeed see quite some struggle in Richmond. The lawmaker further pointed out that he has long been among the opposers of the legalization of casino gambling in the state. He also said that he was rather skeptical any such effort would succeed this time around.

Mr. Eads, on the other hand, said he believed it was the right time for Virginia to join the casino mix as it has been too long that the state has been losing tax revenue to other states where Las Vegas-style gambling is legal.

Sen. Caricco pointed out that he preferred for residents of the area to decide whether they want a casino in their city or not. The effort thus could go to a referendum before the state Legislature has any say on it.

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