Casinos in Virginia Unlikely Before Spring 2022, Lottery Boss Says

Neither temporary, nor full-fledged casinos are likely to open in Virginia before April 2022, Kevin Hall, Executive Director of the Virginia Lottery, told state lawmakers last week during a Zoom conference.

Casino and hospitality operator Hard Rock International previously revealed plans to build and open a temporary casino in Bristol while its main casino complex is under development. The company said that such a temporary site could be established and launched by the end of 2021.

Hard Rock to Seek Approval for Temporary Bristol Casino

Mr. Hall told members of the Virginia House Appropriations Committee that the Lottery’s attorneys are currently preparing casino gaming regulations that would outline the principles under which the state’s future gambling venues would be overseen.

A draft version of the regulations is set to be presented before the Virginia Lottery Board in February 2021. State regulators are expected to pass the set of regulations by April 2021.

Mr. Hall told state lawmakers that the Virginia Lottery anticipates to “be in a position to begin accepting the first casino applications shortly after the initial regs take effect in April.” The regulator went on to explain that all casino license applicants will undergo “an in-depth criminal and financial background investigation.”

These investigations aim to determine the suitability of the companies interested to operate casinos in Virginia and of their key management personnel. The Virginia Lottery Board can take up to one year to complete its investigations, Mr. Hall noted, saying that there is a “provision for that in the statute.”

First Casino Licenses Expected to Be Issued in Spring/Summer 2022

Mr. Hall said that they expect to issue the first casino operator licenses sometime in the spring or summer of 2022. And that the same provisions and procedures apply for temporary casino licenses. In other words, casino operators that want to operate a temporary casino must undergo suitability investigations before such a facility could open.

The regulator also pointed out that temporary casinos would also have to comply with the same technical requirements as a full-scale casino. They would need to install cameras so that all activity taking place on the gaming floor is monitored for safety purpose. All slot machines would have to be connected into a central system, once again for monitoring and auditing purposes.

Residents of the Virginia cities of Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth approved casinos in citywide referendums on November 3. The expansion of the state’s gambling industry aims to help the above cities boost their economies and to generate new revenues for the host communities and Virginia as a whole.

As mentioned above, Hard Rock, the company that was selected as the preferred developer of Bristol’s casino, said in July that it could open a temporary site while its main casino is under development.

The company’s CEO, Jim Allen, said on Election Day that “there are no definitive plans of when that could happen, but we certainly are receptive to the idea – obviously get people jobs and start creating some tax dollars.”

Hard Rock wants to build a $400 million casino resort at the former Bristol Mall. The property will feature a casino with 2,700 slot machines, 100 table games, and a sportsbook, a 350-room hotel, seven restaurants, four bars, a 3,200-seat indoor entertainment venue, and an outdoor entertainment venue with capacity for 20,000, among other amenities.

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