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Bristol gets casino approved for old shopping mall

The games will be on this summer at Virginia’s first casino to be built in a repurposed shopping mall in Bristol.

The Virginia Lottery Board on Thursday approved the state’s first casino license for Hard Rock Bristol.

The unanimous vote followed what lottery officials called a “comprehensive review of application materials and an extensive background investigation.”

“Since enacted by the 2020 General Assembly, the Board’s priority for casino gaming in the commonwealth is that it be conducted with integrity and in a responsible manner,” said Board Chairman Ferhan Hamid in a statement. “Today’s approval reflects the confidence we have in the rigorous and conscientious review conducted by Virginia Lottery staff.”

“The Virginia Lottery has worked diligently for two years to build the appropriate regulatory structure for casino gaming,” said Kelly T. Gee, acting executive director. “There are still many steps to the finish line, but there is no doubt that this is an exciting time.”

The Board also voted to amend its regulations to include casinos in the Voluntary Exclusion Program operated by the Virginia Lottery.

The self-exclusion program allows people with gambling problems to put themselves on a state-held list to prohibit themselves from gambling in state-approved games and venues.

The prohibition would be in place in venues regulated by the Virginia Lottery, the Virginia Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs and the Virginia Racing Commission.

The prohibition includes account-based Virginia Lottery games; online sports betting; charitable gaming such as raffle, bingo, network bingo and instant bingo; horse racing, including live, off-track, historical horse racing, and advance deposit account wagering.

The exclusionary period is five years. Anyone caught gambling during that time will have their winnings forfeited and donated to the Commonwealth’s Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Fund. Losses are the responsibility of the individual.

Lottery officials said on Wednesday that the department’s gaming compliance staff will be involved in opening the temporary facility in the former Bristol Mall in July.

“We will be on-site at the casino over the next couple of months observing the receipt of gaming equipment, reviewing internal controls, and ensuring full compliance with the regulations,” said Gina M. Smith, of the Lottery.

Bristol is not the only area with chips in the gaming industry. Lottery officials are reviewing application materials for three more proposed casinos in Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth. Each was approved by local voters in November 2020 elections.

Casino and sports betting regulations, information and approvals can be viewed at, a microsite providing key information and public transparency on issues around expanded gaming.


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