BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) – As a brand-new Hard Rock Hotel and Casino approaches Bristol, Virginia, News Channel 11 sat down with director Allie Evangelista to get a closer understanding of just what she and the international chain is expecting out of the Tri-Cities.
Evangelista entered the world of gaming over a decade and a half ago, in an industry that she said had started to become stagnant.
“Casinos realized that they had to compete somehow differently than they have been,” she said. “Everybody had the same slot machines, the same table games, and it was a lot of Do’s and Don’ts regarding gaming regulations.”
The first foray into gaming took the form of slots, and Evangelista admitted that her first interview was also the first time she’d seen a slot machine in person. Over the years, however, her experience covered much more than the low-stakes quarter-eaters.
“I worked for three different companies during this period, they kind of acquired each other,” Evangelista said. “And so I never really resigned, but I had a lot of opportunity to move around the country.”
In those moves, Evangelista and casino management began taking a closer look at how the industry was run. A focus on outsider perspectives, player and staff feedback and hard data became a prime focus for her and others in the field. When it comes to bringing her own experience, however, Evangelista said her own personal perspective is useful too.
“I actually worked in a lot of small markets in the Midwest,” Evangelista said. “Small towns like this one where the community is excited about casinos, which is one of the main reasons why I was excited to come here.”
Evangelista said the community played a large part in the decision to come to Bristol, and she hopes to see the new businesses mesh with the existing destinations in town. With her opportunities to work around the country, Evangelista said the warmest welcome she’s received has been right here in the Tri-Cities.
“I think the brand speaks for itself, you know? Hard Rock is a company that doesn’t just theme; we don’t just theme ourselves as far as casinos, hotels, restaurants as part of the music,” Evangelista said. “Music is in the core of everything we do, and I think it speaks to Bristol. It’s a great connection with the location we’re opening just because of being the Birthplace of Country Music. I think that alone is going to be a success.”
While the structure itself is still under construction, Evangelista said the company is still hard at work sourcing the local workers that will be needed to keep the operation running.
“Just recently, in the beginning of this week, we had an opportunity to run our first hiring event in town which was for table games,” Evangelista said. “We had tremendous success with local team members, local candidates interested in joining the property. I met a lot of folks that were very excited about the opportunity.”
While the first event is over, Evangelista said many more positions are still available for application either online or through later events in April. Between the temporary casino and final facilities, Evangelista said roughly 600 to 1,000 jobs could be coming to Bristol.
For local businesses, the casino and resort could be a major boon as well. Evangelista said that while vendors that work with gambling facilities must be licensed in the state of Virginia, Hard Rock management is hoping to partner with as many local producers as possible. Outside of personal revenue, Evangelista said the public can expect a share too.
“There is a huge benefit to the community when it comes to the tax environment that flows into the area, so I’m excited for what it’s going to be not just tomorrow but two years from now, five years from now,” she said. “It’s going to change everything for the better.”