BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) – The Bristol Casino run by Hard Rock generated nearly $12 million in its first month off of table games and slots alone, according to a report published by the Virginia Lottery.
Southwest Virginia city and county officials said they’ll receive a cut of gaming tax revenue, and it could be transformative for the entire region.
In a casino activity report released on Monday, the lottery organization overseeing all casinos in Virginia said the newly opened business made $11,717,478.46 in Adjusted Gross Revenues (AGR) in July. According to the release, a casino’s AGR is determined by subtracting winnings paid out from wagers paid to the business.
The vast majority of that total came from slot machine gaming, which generated $10,236,488.59 throughout the month. Table games brought in $1,480,989.87 in that same period.
From that gross revenue, VA Lottery said $2,109,146.13 will go to the state as part of an 18% revenue tax. That money is broken down for multiple causes:
- Regional Improvement Commission (6% of AGR) – $703,048.71
- Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Fund (0.8% of total taxes) – $16,873.17
- Family and Children’s Trust Fund (0.2% of total taxes) – $4,218.26
- Gaming Proceeds Fund – $1,385,005.96
“These results show strong customer interest during our first month of operation,” said Allie Evangeliasta, president of the casino. “We are pleased that our guests are enjoying a fun, friendly gaming and dining experience, thanks to our hard working and dedicated team members. We look forward to this continued success, as we build Hard Rock brand loyalty with customers from Bristol, the region and neighboring states.”
In previous reports, gamblers at Bristol Casino spent over $37 million in the business’s first ten days of operation, while winning nearly $34 million in the same time.
Revenue to the Regional Improvement Commission is split equally between the 12 counties that make up the Virginia Department of Transportation, plus the Town of Norton and City of Bristol, Virginia.
No other casino project in the Commonwealth has a regional revenue sharing stream like it.
Virginia’s casino gaming law requires revenue from the commission to be spent on education, transportation and public safety.
When split 14 ways, the $703 thousand comes out to around $50,000 for each locality from 24 days of casino operation.
Smyth County Administrator Shawn Utt said if the localities play their cards right, the revenue stream could change the entire region for the better.
“If you’re smart, you can make some generational investments with it, without having to tax the citizens,” Utt said.
Utt said his goal is to create a new EMS station with the first year’s casino revenue.
Washington County Administrator and Regional Improvement Commission Chairman Jason Berry said early discussions in the committee have centered around the best path for each localities to use the money.
“Our second meeting, there was a lot of discussion about hey, can we look at road projects? Can we look at trails? Can we look at education facilities, expansions?” Berry said.
Each locality in the commission has one representative present.
Bristol, Virginia Mayor Anthony Farnum said the city will receive extra revenue from the casino’s property tax and local sales taxes for hotels and restaurants.
He said that revenue stream could lead to massive improvements across the board.
“We have a lot of needs when it comes to building schools, paying our teachers, paying for police cars, hiring more police officers,” Farnum said. “I think our main focus now is just trying to figure out how to use it responsibly.”
As the casino grows, so will the tax rate.
Right now, the tax rate is six percent of the AGR, but if annual casino revenues surpass $200 million, it becomes 7 percent.
At $400 million, the cut increases to 8 percent.
“It could easily hit a million dollars per locality, and for the smaller localities, that’s a serious chunk of change to work with,” Utt said.
The July revenue came from the temporary casino and was not even a full month of operation.
Berry said big things could be in store once the full hotel and casino opens.
“It’s likely to drive more traffic I would think, and more traffic will be more revenue. I think what you see now is just the beginning,” Berry said.
Berry said the commission will receive the revenue in quarterly amounts, and it will disbursed to the localities in a yearly lump sum.
He expects the first quarterly disbursement around mid-October.
Virginia Senator Todd Pillion told News Channel 11 that he sees the facility’s profits as a major boon to the area.
“Of the over $2 million in tax revenue, more than $700,000 will go to the Regional Improvement Commission,” Pillion said. “Which will benefit every single locality in Southwest Virginia. This commission model is unique to the Bristol project and will provide more funding for education, transportation and public safety needs right here at home.”