Escalating words between officials of rival casino projects

Local

BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) — After a website was launched for a proposed casino at The Pinnacle in Bristol, Virginia by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, developers of another proposed casino, the Hard Rock Casino Bristol, revealed their plans and strong reactions to the rival project.

Their statement said that the international brand would be an equity partner in the project, meaning that Hard Rock International is investing money into the casino, not just operating it.

It says in part:

“We can’t help but believe that the Cherokee don’t want us to compete with them against their very successful Cherokee North Carolina casino and Steve Johnson does not want 50 retail stores and restaurants operated by Hard Rock to compete with his Pinnacle operation.”

Greg Habee, a lawyer for the project at The Pinnacle says their proposal is all about being in the best interest of the people and economy of Southwest Virginia.

“The folks behind the Cherokee Casino and Resort at the Pinnacle are not interested in having a tit for tat with anybody,” said Habeeb. “What we’re looking for is a process that the state can grant a license to the best possible casino operator that will help the most people. You’re not going to see us playing games like that online.”

On the way back from Richmond, Bristol, Virginia City Manager Randy Eads said the legislation is the same as the one proposed last year — allowing for a referendum to legalize casino gambling in economically distressed cities.

“What everyone has to realize is the legislation as it’s drafted right now and has been filed, and the filing deadline has passed…there is no legislation that would allow for a casino in Washington County,” Eads said.

The deadline to file new legislation for the 2020 session was January 17th.

“The legislation has not been before any committee or sub-committee as of yet,” Eads said. “We believe that at least one subcommittee will take it up next week and then another committee the following week.”

If passed, a referendum is expected between July and December of this year.

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