BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) – Thousands of people have walked through the shiny new aisles of the Bristol Casino since it opened Friday. Many told News Channel 11 they had a blast, but that was not a unanimous observation.
Hard Rock Bristol officials said they had served thousands of people over the weekend.
“Our team knew that local excitement for the project has been building since the successful 2020 referendum, and so the strong demand over the opening weekend was consistent with the level of enthusiasm that we’ve been experiencing first-hand in the community for months,” President of Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Bristol Allie Evangelista said in a statement.
Some patrons interviewed by News Channel 11 Sunday said they came from just up the road.
“Some friends and I, we drove down today, wanted to check out the casino. Look forward to going in and with all the customers and the public here, it looks like it’s going to really boost the economy, and looking to have a good time,” Eric McReynolds said.
Other patrons came from other states to see what all the fuss was about.
“We came from Florida where there’s casinos everywhere so you know, Hard Rock – it was kind of cool – it was our second time in a casino in a mall so I was like ‘alright, well, we know what to expect a little bit,’ but it’s cool,” A.J. Suchocki said.
Not everyone had the best time.
“The aisles are so narrow and if you meet somebody in the aisle, going from machine to machine, you have to step between the machines to get them by,” Velemir Cicin said.
When asked if he would return to the Bristol Casino, he said no.
“No, I’m never gonna come back here,” he said.
It was not all bad reviews.
“It’s a pretty cool experience, they did it really nice up in there so everything’s like top-notch, state-of-the-art, and everything’s so clean right now, so I would go check out everything,” Suchocki urged. “We walked out a little bit of a winner so ‘winner, winner, chicken dinner, baby!'”
Though some visitors told News Channel 11 that parking signage may not be the best, others disagreed.
“It was easy to get in, we found good parking, you’ve got both sides you can choose from and other than the rain, we’re looking for a good time,” McReynolds said.
Evangelista wrote in a statement: “Parking and traffic was not unlike what we have experienced with other casino openings. Traffic flow into the property has reflected the strong interest we were anticipating. We are prepared to manage this demand so that our guests continue to have a welcoming experience.”
She added that all 870 slot machines and 21 table games were equally popular over the weekend.
“I see a lot of people spending money but they don’t get none back. I didn’t see anybody win anything yet,” Cicin pointed out. “I tried and I lost 20 bucks.”
He added that he was upset that he didn’t witness more people winning jackpots at the slots or hands at the tables.
“It’s a new place, they should be giving more so that people will come back. As I see it, none are going to come back, or most of them won’t come back,” Cicin said.
The casino staff was ready for anyone who might have gotten unruly after losing as Cicin pointed out.
The security team was on high alert this weekend, as it was the first few days they had actual patrons in the building.
“Our security team is trained and prepared for any contingency that may arise at a large venue operating 24/7 and serving many guests daily and did not experience anything unexpected over the weekend,” Evangelista said.
Apart from gaming, the casino also has two restaurants and a bar with multiple performance stages.
“We have had many great local musical acts at the Bristol Bar stage over the weekend. That venue is fast becoming an exciting place to have a drink and listen to music before or after casino play or even for those who are non-gamers,” Evangelista added.
The Bristol Casino is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Casino staff said they work closely with Bristol, Va. Police Department in the event that intervention might be necessary.