Bristol, VA

Casino and Crime in Bristol

John M. Dabbs
Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

Prepare yourself. The casino is on its way and the city will see more of what is here.

We have studied the effects of casino gambling on crime and quality of life in new casino jurisdictions. Many of you are in for a rude awakening. Crime, divorce, bankruptcy, suicide... they've all been studied and we have the results. These numbers have all increased in some communities. They have also decreased in some communities. According to a study authored by Grant Stitt and published in 2001 by a grant funded by the U.S. Department of Justice.

From reading the report and other data, I can say the results are based upon the community itself. The community has a stake in what goes on. Bristol Virginia officials have made a plethora of bad decisions over the past few years. Many projects and ideas have put the city at the end of its borrowing capacity.

Corruption or poor leadership

Look at the scandals involved in Bristol, Virginia. The Bristol Virginia Utilities Board was involved in corruption. In 2015, eight former BVU executives, board members, and contractors plead guilty to a wide range of felonies. The utility was full of self-dealing, extortion, tax evasion, and fraud. There were reports of kickback schemes and bid-rigging. Vendors or expected to fund extravagant holiday parties and provide other perks.

Bristol attorney Doug Fleenor was credited with exposing the criminal activity at the BVU board and was reinstated by the city council to the BVU Board of Directors in 2015. He hadn't been reappointed after his prior term had expired. In a strange turn of events, Fleenor was forced from his position as a councilman on the Bristol Virginia City Council in 2018, just three years into his first term on the council. The reasons cited were malfeasance and neglecting his duties. The council was going through the steps to have him removed when Fleenor decided to submit his resignation. You can only wonder what else is going on here.


According to Neighborhood Scout, The chance of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime in Bristol is 1 in 38. Based on FBI crime data, Bristol, Virginia is not one of the safest communities in America. Relative to Virginia, Bristol has a crime rate that is higher than 90% of the state's cities and towns of all sizes.

The Neighborhood Scout gives Bristol, Virginia a crime index of 19 - meaning it's only safer than 19% of other cities in the United States. The interstate, railways, and mountains funnel a lot of people and materials through Bristol. The HUD (U.S. Housing and Urban Development) housing projects, failed retail hubs, and falling industrial base have all had their effects on the city. The closure of the Bristol Mall with the opening of Bristol, Tennessee's Pinnacle development didn't help matters any.

Looking at these statistics you'd think all was gloom and doom for the northern of the twin-cities. Let's look again. Bristol, Tennessee has a crime index of 11, and Abingdon's is 38. Bristol, Virginia is where the statistics start to improve. In Bristol, Virginia - 83% of the population have a high school diploma, and over 24% are college graduates. This gives the city a leg up on the competition when finding good employment opportunities for its people. Businesses can work with this population.


It was known and reported in 2018 by the FBI that every major gang operates in the Tri-Cities area. MS-13 initiations were even held as close as Richmond. Organized crime exists in the area. If not in operations, the area is still a major thoroughfare for activity. Meth, guns, money laundering, and human trafficking are all found here. The police, state, and federal officials do a good job of keeping an eye on it, as far as they can see. There are some things they know of requiring a hands-off approach.

Big business does not like little businesses to cause them problems. Just as Walmart will have sales to compete with the mom and pop shops, the big criminal organizations have a sale - right? wrong. The problems of big business are small operators and thugs drawing too much attention to an area. Too much attention is a bad thing, so they try to persuade people from doing the wrong thing - or provide tips so the petty thieves and those of few morals can be caught.


While many may see the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino as being a "cash cow" for the city, I believe it in reality we won't see much of an impact overall. The city will be collecting more taxes. Managed correctly, it will be able to start paying off its enormous debt. City services can return to normal, and a few people will find better-paying jobs while others find a space in the hospitality or service industry as people increasingly make the area a destination, instead of a stop along the highway.

Divorce rates should not change significantly. According to statistics, we may see a rise in personal bankruptcies. Please save some of that money you're not putting into the slot machines. Invest in your 401k or Roth IRA... a CD perhaps, or pay more on your mortgage. Personal money management is not done logically as it should be. Many people manage their money emotionally and throw their money to the wind. Do not worry about keeping up with the Jones family down the street or having the newest car. I buy all of my cars used and spend -on average- twenty thousand dollars less than most people I know. These aren't pieces of junk either. You just have to do your homework.

I do not foresee crime rates to change dramatically, as the police and private security will undoubtedly increase as needed to ensure the safety and security of citizens and visitors alike. Divorce and Possibly we can see passenger rail service return to Bristol, with the green initiatives promised with the Biden - Harris campaign. Only time will tell.

Bristol is a good place to live, and not a bad place to work either. It has its pitfalls, as does any community, but it has many things to boast and be proud of as well. The mountains, lakes, and streams are beautiful. We have a generous and changing climate to be thankful for having. Our community has a world-class sporting arena and we have many quality golf courses, campgrounds, historic sites, and recreational opportunities.

If I didn't already live here, I'd move here!

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John is a writer and journalist with a passion for travel, adventure, and the outdoors. You can find him at HTTP://

Bristol, TN

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