Virginia has issued its first license to operate the state’s first casino, one that will open in Bristol in July. The Hard Rock Bristol casino will be located within a former mall until a permanent casino and hotel complex is built.

NEWS RELEASE: Following a comprehensive review of application materials and an extensive background investigation and a 7-0 vote, the Virginia Lottery Board today issued to Hard Rock Bristol a facility operator’s license to operate Virginia’s first casino.

“Since enacted by the 2020 General Assembly, the Board’s priority for casino gaming in the Commonwealth is that it be conducted with integrity and in a responsible manner,” said Board Chairman Ferhan Hamid. “Today’s approval reflects the confidence we have in the rigorous and conscientious review conducted by Virginia Lottery staff.”

“The Virginia Lottery has worked diligently for two years to build the appropriate regulatory structure for casino gaming,” added Acting Executive Director Kelly T. Gee. “I am proud of the tireless work by our Gaming Compliance Department and our legal counsel for conducting the necessary investigative work to assist the Board in its decision. There are still many steps to the finish line, but there is no doubt that this is an exciting time.”

The Lottery’s Gaming Compliance Department will continue to work closely with Hard Rock Bristol as it prepares to open a temporary facility on the site of the former Bristol Mall in early July.

“We will be on-site at the casino over the next couple of months observing the receipt of gaming equipment, reviewing internal controls, and ensuring full compliance with the regulations,” said Virginia Lottery Deputy Executive Director of Gaming Compliance Gina M. Smith.

Also today, the Board voted to amend its regulations to include casinos in the Voluntary Exclusion Program operated by the Virginia Lottery.

The Lottery continues to review application materials for three more proposed casinos in Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth. Each was approved by voters in local referenda in November 2020.

Casino and sports betting regulations, information and approvals can be viewed at,a microsite providing key information and public transparency on issues around expanded gaming.