North Carolina-Based Tribe Proposes Casino in Virginia

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has proposed a casino and entertainment destination near The Pinnacle development (pictured) in Washington County, Virginia.

A Virginia casino may be in the cards for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), owners and operators of Harrah’s Cherokee Resort Hotel and Casino in Cherokee, North Carolina. 

The Band’s Chief Richard Sneed announced yesterday that the Tribe has reached an agreement with Johnson Commercial Development to operate a proposed casino on 350 acres near The Pinnacle development in Washington County, Virginia.

Johnson Commercial Development is a Bristol, Virginia-based full-service real estate development and management company. It’s responsible for The Pinnacle, the aforementioned retail, restaurant, hotel, medical office space and outdoor entertainment attraction. 

“I have visited the site along I-81 and I am impressed with its strategic, gateway location that serves a five-state area,” Sneed said. “It is our wish to bring new tax revenue and jobs to Washington County and the Southwest Virginia region in a positive and impactful way.” 

The Tribe’s proposed casino would heavily lean toward entertainment with an outdoor concert venue, recreational facilities and a hotel featuring an indoor water park. 

Legislation approved last year named five Virginia cities as potential sites for casinos — Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Richmond. The General Assembly still needs to authorize the Act this year. Each casino would require approval by local voter referenda.

The EBCI and Johnson Commercial Development hope Virginia initiates competitive bidding to approve casinos in the state. 

“Ultimately, what the state needs to do — put individual projects aside — the state is going to do very few casinos, so when they do them, they must be done right and with the broadest economic impact in mind, and we think that this project, standing up against any other project in the region, will show remarkable economic impact that will last for generations,” Greg Habeeb, who represents the Cherokee project, told the Bristol Herald Courier.

As developer Steve Johnson told WCYB: “Our agreement with Chief Sneed of the EBCI is an extraordinary opportunity to bring an experienced casino owner-operator to Washington County and the Southwest Virginia region. We look forward to working with the Cherokee Nation, local leaders, and elected officials in Richmond to bring this massive opportunity to fruition.” 

The EBCI’s proposed casino would compete with its potential neighbor, the proposed Hard Rock Bristol Resort and Casino, proposed for a location just a mile away.

Hard Rock Casino Bristol 

A new Hard Rock is likely coming to Bristol in southwest Virginia. The twin Bristol cities are situated on the Tennessee-Virginia state line. The Bristol area was named “the birthplace of country music” by U.S. Congress in 1988 — a fitting location for the brand, according to Hard Rock officials. 

“Hard Rock’s iconic brand speaks to its deep roots in live music entertainment and world-class memorabilia collection, which will play a prominent role at Hard Rock Casino Bristol,” said Jim McGlothlin, CEO of The United Company and partner on the project. “This focus on music will complement our region’s country music heritage and dynamic music scene in the Twin City.”

Hard Rock International is partnering with the Bristol Resort & Casino to create Hard Rock Casino Bristol in Virginia. Once final approval is received from the Commonwealth of Virginia and the citizens of Bristol, Virginia, Hard Rock plans to work with the local ownership group to plan construction and opening of its proposed resort and casino.




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