Virginia Churches Show Opposition to Bristol Casino Plans
Some churches in Virginia are coming out in strong opposition to a casino opening in the city of Bristol.
For a new casino to be added in a state within the US, legal changes must be made. The process depends on the individual state. In Virginia, it requires a referendum and this November, voters will be deciding if certain cities of the state should be allowed to offer casino gaming. Five cities are currently ready to go, if they are approved. Several churches have now come out in opposition to the idea of adding a casino in the city of Bristol, campaigning heavily to try and persuade voters to say no.
New Anti-Casino Campaign
Faith groups like the Fellowship Chapel and a coalition of area churches are fighting back, hoping that voters will check no on the ballot this November. Billboards are popping up in the area, telling Bristol residents that they should not think a casino is going to be a savior as it will be Satan. The billboards then read VOTE NO in big letters.
One billboard even asks the question ‘what would Jesus do?’ and then says he would definitely vote no on the casino referendum. Nine churches are in this coalition against the referendum, most of them Baptist in nature. The churches created the group No Bristol Casino and they even use red coloring to highlight the word ‘sin’ in casino.
The churches do not see anything good coming from the casinos, even long-term. They feel the casinos will only bring sin to the area, including crime and harming families.
Those in favor of bringing the casino to Bristol, as well as the four other cities in the state, see the venue as a boost to the economy. For a city to qualify for a commercial casino build, they must have an unemployment rate of 5% or more in 2018. The poverty level must be 20% from 2017 and have a decrease in population for at least 20% in the period from 1990 to 2016.
Even though this criterion clearly shows economic hardship, and the casinos could bring in jobs and stimulate the local economy, the churches say that the casinos are not the way to do so. They think that the venues will only make the areas worse, causing more harm than good.
In September, a mailer was sent out to voters in Bristol, claiming that gambling is a psychological addiction, and it creates the same potential to wreck a life as cocaine does. The flyer goes on to say that gamblers are even harder to rehabilitate then people with an alcohol addiction.
The effort to bring casinos to the state was led by two businessmen from Bristol, Clyde Stacey and Jim McGlothlin. Because a bill was passed to allow casino gaming in the state, both Stacey and McGlothlin have moved forward with plans for Bristol, partnering with Hard Rock International to bring a major casino brand to the area.
The Hard Rock Bristol would cost $400 million to create and would be located in the former Bristol Mall, which stands vacant today. The property would become a destination for casino gaming and other forms of entertainment. Slot machines would be added along with table games. Plans include a hotel as well as restaurants, shopping and more.
Hard Rock would bring as many as 3,500 jobs to the area. Officials of the casino say they are excited to be a part of and to help in the rebirth of Bristol.
We shall have to wait and see how the voting turns out on November 3 as to if the church campaigns worked or if voters can see the benefit of adding casino gaming to Bristol and the four other cities vying for a commercial casino property.