Despite objections from residents, the City Council of the city of Bristol, a town straddling the Virginia-Tennessee borders in the United States, authorized the construction of a casino resort at the site of an abandoned shopping mall. The authorization came in a 4-0 vote of the council and is still not the final approval the casino resort needs to begin construction. Thus, the confrontation between residents and their government will continue until its final resolution. At present, the confrontation has several aspects to it.
Land Based Casino Gambling
There are many sharp differences between land based casino gambling and online casino gambling. The most obvious is that land based casinos must attract people to come to the casino physically while online casinos require only that players register once. Then they can simply tap and swipe and they’ll be at the casino.
Online casinos can offer many bonuses to their client base. They offer so many bonuses that they use bonus codes to keep track of the bonuses. Land based casinos are hamstrung in their desire to offer bonuses by the transient nature of their business.
Bristol is a small town in the foothills of the Appalachian and Shenandoah Mountains. In the census of 2010, the local permanent population stood at slightly less than 27,000. Like all small towns in the United States, Bristol relies on an annual influx of tourists to augment whatever income the locals can generate from non-tourist business activity.
One of the key aspects of the opposition to a casino in a town of such small size is that the casino would often have a population of its own of 20-25% of the permanent population. The type of tourist that normally comes to Bristol is one interested in the many natural attractions the area has to offer. Many residents are afraid that the nature of the tourist population would dramatically change for the worse by the construction of a casino.
Bristol, today, offers hiking, boating, bird watching, and many other outdoor activities. It has a local brewery and some popular restaurants. Country music fans go to the local country music museum. Cave lovers can visit the local caverns which are part of the long chain of caverns so popular along the Shenandoah Mountains.
The opponents cited statistics that casinos often bring crime in their wake. The town of Bristol, in their view, is too small and poorly equipped to deal with a rise in crime. Along with petty theft, car theft, and the like, casinos often attract prostitutes to set up their own “businesses” in areas that become havens for casino gamblers.
Reverend Dewey Williams said, “With a casino, there is nothing good that will come of it. We need jobs, but we need honorable jobs.”
Others expressed similar positions while some said that the city itself would fall in the wake of a casino being built. This last sentiment simply expresses the concern that Bristol is too small to retain its centuries-long character in the face of the changes that would occur were a casino to be built there.
Bristol, like so many US small towns, is still populated by people who have known each other since they were small children themselves. This was expressed by the mayor, Kevin Mumpower, who said that he personally knows the two local businessmen who are at the forefront of the casino project. The mayor said, “I wouldn’t support this project unless I knew the people behind this project are committed to doing it right. They are putting their personal fortune at stake here.” The two business leaders the mayor was referencing are Jim McGlothlin and Clyde Stacy.
The mayor pointed out that Jim McGlothlin had raised $56,000,000 for the Mountain Mission School. This indicated to the mayor that McGlothlin and his business partner have the town’s best interests at heart.
Vice Mayor’s Response
The Vice Mayor, Kevin Wingard, directly addressed some of the residents’ objections. “This is a proposal that would bring vast amounts of money into the city. Is there going to be an increase in crime? I’m sure there will be. We’ll have thousands more people in this city all the time…It is my opinion that the vast majority of people that visit these casinos know exactly what they are doing, make educated, calculated decisions, on how much money they’re going to spend; it’s entertainment to them, they go on.”
Everyone in Bristol agrees that the people need good paying jobs. The casino would provide as many as 2000 new jobs at an average salary of $46,000. This is a massive number of jobs for the city even as the salary is not going to make anyone rich.
The Abandoned Mall
The existence of an abandoned shopping center means that the town didn’t have enough cumulative income to keep a mall alive. The jobs that the mall had generated were all lost. A casino at the location of the mall might begin the process of rehabilitation for the city with jobs that would pay far more than the clerk jobs many residents had at the mall.
The state of Virginia still has to approve casino gambling in the state before the project can advance to the development and construction stage. It is far from certain that the state legislature would approve casino gambling given the enormous sway of religious commitment on the part of so many people who live outside the Washington D.C. corridor.
It is considered significant that the proposed casino is being presented as a casino resort. The major businessmen involved, the afore-mentioned Jim McGlothlin and Clyde Stacy were classmates in school in Bristol. They see the resort as serving far more than just casino gamblers.
It would have much of the attractions of an Integrated Resort with a top level hotel, shopping for all price ranges, excellent restaurants, family-friendly attractions, a theater and other entertainment facilities and more. At present there aren’t plans for a convention center which is also one of the hallmarks of Integrated Resorts.
The failed mall covered over 500,000 square feet and the casino resort is expected to revitalize perhaps half of the area that once housed the mall. It might come to pass that other entrepreneurs will see the other half of the former mall as prime real estate for the establishment of their businesses.