BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL)- If voters approve casino gaming during the November 3rd referendum, Hard Rock is expected to move aggressively to start constructing their resort at the old Bristol mall. But before the completed facility opens, Hard Rock plans to construct a smaller temporary facility.

This will be a space to train employees and allow the public to get a first taste of the finished project.

Officials hope the grand opening of their completed casino and resort will be in late 2022. But if voters give the green light on November 3rd, Hard Rock plans to open a temporary casino at the mall’s former Belk store.

The temporary casino will be built in the mall’s former Belk store area

“We would expect about six to eight months of time to convert this space into what will be a nice little facility for the two years it takes to build the permanent facility,” Hard Rock Chief Operating Officer Jon Lucas said.

Lucas says to expect 600-700 slots, 24 gaming tables, a sports book, and food options.

“Coffee shop and a restaurant, couple of bars. Then the gaming,” he said.

Current plans involve the temporary facility having two levels, with smoking permitted at the upper level and the lower level designated as non-smoking. 

The temporary casino is also where staff training will happen.

“Once [the project] is approved, or if it’s approved, we would open up a dealer’s training school and any other of the functions that require some training, we’ll start that shortly thereafter,” said Lucas.

Hard Rock officials say the project timeline so far is an estimate based on the timing of licensing, plus rules and regulations the Virginia Legislature will determine. But if all goes according to developer’s plans, the public could be gaming and dining at the temporary facility by next fall.

“We would hope that this time next year, we’ll have this facility right here up and running and open to the public,” said Lucas.