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Hard Rock Sportsbook Now Live In Virginia

James Murphy
by in Gaming Industry on
  • Hard Rock Digital has announced the launch of Hard Rock Sportsbook in Virginia.
  • Hard Rock is planning to open a retail sportsbook at their temporary casino in Bristol this summer.
  • Virginia’s sports betting ecosystem is hampered by excessive taxes and an anti-competitive regulatory framework.

Hard Rock Digital has announced the launch of the Hard Rock Sportsbook platform in Virginia. Virginia becomes the second state for the ‘state of the art’ Hard Rock Sportsbook app following Arizona. The Hard Rock brand also offers online sports betting in New Jersey and Iowa with the Hard Rock Sports & Casino NJ and the Hard Rock Sportsbook Iowa apps. Hard Rock Digital is the interactive gaming arm of Hard Rock International–the once ubiquitous brand started in London by Peter Morton, which has taken a circuitous route through several ownership groups and is now owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. They’ve expanded their gaming operations in recent years, including the purchase of the iconic Mirage Las Vegas from MGM Resorts for $1.075 billion USD. The deal is expected to close in Q3 or Q4 2022. The working plan is to keep the ‘Mirage’ name and give the place a complete renovation which it definitely needs. And now the bad news–they plan to gut the volcano attraction on Las Vegas Boulevard to build a 1,000 room hotel. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they plan to reprise the garish guitar design first unleashed on the world at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida:

This won’t stand out like a sore thumb amid the trend toward more sophisticated design of Las Vegas hotels.

Hopefully, less aesthetically challenged forces inside Hard Rock International will prevail. Then again, they *did* just introduce a line of canned cocktails. They’re capable of restraint, as displayed at their recently opened Hard Rock Hotel New York. Here’s the bar:

Unfortunately, the HRHNYC is getting over with the locals about as well as a Boston Red Sox World Series championship. The New York Post’s Johnny Oleksinski displayed considerable acerbic wit as he eviscerated the latest fixture of flyover country mediocrity to infest ‘The Big Apple’ in a column entitled “Times Square Hard Rock Hotel is a slap in the face to NYC”:

That would be the new Hard Rock Hotel, the latest outpost of the memorabilia and kitsch brand that surprisingly still exists. It joins Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Resort, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and David and Buster’s as businesses that make me think, “Perhaps Mayor Adams should try bringing back the XXX movie theaters and crack dealers!”

Yet somehow the Hard Rock is the biggest slap in the face of all of those schlock factories because it so flagrantly steals from the rubble it is standing atop. One of the three theaters it houses is even called “The Venue at Music Row.” Oh, please.

The epideictic beatdown continues:

Inside, the Hard Rock is somewhat more elegant than its international brethren of lodgings and chicken-finger-filled cafes. I searched and searched for one of ZZ Top’s beards stapled to a wall, but didn’t even spot stubble.

Then I squeamishly encountered the ground-floor Rock Shop, where you can’t buy guitars from master craftsmen who’ve honed their art for decades, but you can take home a Hard Rock-branded sequined bomber jacket for $150. And for those of you who really embrace the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, pick up a croissant in the well-lit attached bakery. 

Why not go even harder, man? Up in your room you can do “RockOm” yoga, or have a Fender guitar delivered for you to poorly play while filming Instagram videos — with headphones. Party on, losers!

The conclusion:

Times Square is fast turning into Epcot with crime, or Las Vegas without a miniaturized St. Mark’s Square. It’s a travesty.

Here’s the cold, Hard Rock truth: The Crossroads of the World should hold onto more things that are proudly, unmistakably and unapologetically New York. And screw the rest.

‘Epcot with crime’ says it all….well done, sir. I’m a huge fan of Las Vegas fixture John ‘Johnny Kats’ Katsilometes but I don’t know if he’s capable of such a scathing rebuke. If I’m ever walking into a verbal or written street fight, I want Oleksinski on my side. Disclaimer: if I happen to title a forthcoming review of the ‘Hard Rock Mirage’ as:

“Hard Rock Mirage is a slap in the face to Las Vegas”

Purely a coincidence….


Maybe the elegant iconography of Hard Rock International will be more kindly received in Bristol, Virginia. The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol is being built on the site of the now defunct Bristol Mall so the bar isn’t set very high. The Bristol Mall was featured in an episode of a documentary series called Dead Mall entitled ‘Sad, Depressing Bristol Mall’:

A ‘temporary casino’ will open in July with the awkward name ‘Bristol Casino – Future Home of Hard Rock’:

The ‘Bristol Casino – Future Home of Hard Rock,’ a temporary full-service casino, will boast approximately 30,000 square feet of casino space, featuring approximately 900 gaming slots, 20 tables and a sportsbook for a variety of gaming options.  The temporary casino will have a store with Hard Rock merchandise and a display area showcasing the future Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Bristol that is currently under construction.  The space will include a main casino floor as well as non-smoking and high limit gaming areas. Guests will also be able to enjoy a new restaurant, a grab and go food outlet, and a sports bar and lounge with entertainment along with an adjacent smoking sports lounge. Hard Rock’s temporary casino will create 600 new jobs in Bristol, Virginia. 

The ‘temporary casino’ is actually using the Bristol Mall sign:

I tried to find a picture of the ‘temporary casino’, but to no avail. Since the casino is legit in an abandoned Belk store inside the old mall that’s not a huge surprise. It also explains why Hard Rock doesn’t want their logo anywhere near the ‘temporary casino’. The place looks like a dump right now but based on the transformation of a temporary casino in Rockford, Illinois there’s a lot of progress that can be made in a couple of months:

The model of the actual Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol is decidedly bland–like a mall where you can gamble but with a hotel next door:

You can take the Belk out of the mall, but you’ll never take the mall out of the casino….or something like that

Allie Evangelista, President of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol, is excited to launch their retail sportsbook even if it is in an abandoned Belk store:

“We can’t wait to welcome sports fans from across the region to our retail sportsbook location in Bristol. The Hard Rock Sportsbook mobile app will be an extension of our Bristol property, allowing sports fans to continue their legendary entertainment experience throughout Virginia.”

Marlon Goldstein, Executive Managing Director & CEO for Hard Rock Digital, also pumped up the (literal) ‘retail’ sportsbook opening in the old Belk:

“We’re excited to expand Hard Rock Sportsbook to Virginia and proud to offer more gaming options on the sports Virginians love on our easy-to-use mobile platform. We’re looking forward to the opening of our retail sportsbook in Bristol this July and providing Virginia sports fans with an unparalleled integrated entertainment experience.”

They might want to dial back the promise of an ‘unparalleled integrated entertainment experience’ as long as they’re making book at Belk. Personally, I’m glad to see the Hard Rock Casino–temporary or otherwise–opening in Bristol if for no other reason than to make local fundamentalist Christian scumbags butthurt. Hopefully, area churches will be empty every Sunday during NFL season and the Hard Rock sportsbook packed to the rafters.

Props to Hard Rock Digital for coming up with some media assets like this video:

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