BRISTOL, VA (WJHL) — A referendum to allow voters in Bristol, Virginia to decide whether casino-style gambling should be allowed has been pushed back to 2020, following a vote this morning in the Senate Finance Committee.
Longtime businessmen Jim McGlothlin and Clyde Stacy have proposed turning the vacant Bristol Mall on Gate City Highway into a multi-million dollar resort style casino with casino-style gambling, family entertainment, restaurants, shopping and children’s activities.
The legislation will now be sent to the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, where a comprehensive study will be conducted and later brought before the General Assembly next year in Richmond.
An earlier version of the bill also included a study that would’ve been conducted while the legislative process and local referendums were allowed to continue.
Local leaders in Bristol had hoped to hold a referendum in the fall of 2019.
“It’s certainly disappointing, though it’s not wholly unexpected because it was a huge shift in Virginia law,” said Bristol, Virginia City Councilor Neal Osborne. “There is an urgency to get it done sooner rather than later because we certainly need the tax revenue and it’s basically a shot in the arm for the economies of the whole region.”
President and CEO of Bristol’s Chamber of Commerce Beth Rhinehart said this delay is frustrating given the city’s mounting debt load. She said additional revenue from a casino project in 2019 would’ve helped relieve some of the burden on taxpayers.
News Channel 11 received the following statement from the developers of the Bristol Resort and Casino, which reads in part:
“We are pleased with the Senate’s action this morning to keep the process moving forward. The House of Delegates now has a similar opportunity to support our most economically-distressed parts of the Commonwealth. We look forward to continuing work with the General Assembly in the coming days and months to help make these projects a reality. These projects will create thousands of new jobs and generate millions of dollars in additional tax revenue to fund education, public safety, transportation and other critical local needs.”
News Channel 11 has reached to the city officials in Bristol, Virginia for comment as well as legislative members. This is a developing story. Look for updates starting at 5 p.m. and on WJHL.com