BRISTOL, VA (WJHL)- Two bills have passed through the Virginia House Assembly this weekend that would pave the way for a casino to operate at the former Bristol Mall.
The legislation will allow for casino economic development projects in the cities of Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth, Richmond, and Norfolk.
Several people in Bristol, VA who have been pushing for the bill to pass spoke to News Channel 11’s Kristen Gallant Sunday.
“It’s been a long process. There’s still more steps to go through. This is defiantly not a done deal yet. There are several more steps,” said Bristol, VA City Councilman Anthony Farnum.
The Bristol Casino project has been in the works since Summer 2018.
After the bills passing in both the Virginia Senate and House, the legislation will head to Governor Ralph Northam’s desk.
“The governor has to sign off on this legislation. It will be sent to him here shortly. He’ll give his approval hopefully over the next six weeks and then at that point once the law becomes effective July 1 well start doing preparations for the referendum here in Bristol on November the 3rd,” said Bristol, VA City Manager, Randy Eads.
A casino in Bristol has been a hot topic with people both for and against the plans.
“I think the biggest questions are, people are concerned about crime or maybe if you go into a bigger city for instance like Myrtle Beach or Pigeon Forge there’s traffic and everywhere there’s billboards,” explains Farnum, “I’ve met with the police chief about his plan for crime. I’ve met with our city planner and discussed things as far as signage around the city.”
Dr. William J. Reid is the pastor of New Hope Baptist Church and has gone to Richmond to help support the bill.
“From the conception of it I’ve been supportive and it’s not so much the casino bill as it is the family resort. Which the casino is only 10 percent of it. However, we know that is the magnetic force,” said Dr. Reid.
He says the economical value it could bring to Bristol is why he stands behind the plans.
“Do I plan on gambling, no. That’s not my desire. But I’m hoping this casino, as well as the family resort, will offer jobs and be a magnet that will pull revenue to this area and tourism,” said Reid.
A study by the Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission on how legalizing casino gambling would affect the commonwealth projected it to generate about $970 million in net gaming revenue and approximately $260 million in gaming revenue for the state.
More on the study: Newly released study reveals potential impact of casinos in Virginia
For Bristol, VA it means more jobs along with the increase in revenue.
“This is going to be a $400 million investment by Mr. Mcglothlin and Mr. Stacy so you could expect those numbers to double and maybe even a little bit more than that in regards to employment,” said Eads.
“I think the City of Bristol, Virginia has lost about a thousand jobs over the past four years. so this will single handily take care of that,” explained Councilman Farnum.