The chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), Richard Sneed, announced Jan. 7 that his organization has reached an agreement to develop and operate a proposed Washington County, Va., casino. The casino is planned to be part of the Pinnacle Virginia, a 350-acre development that will include an outdoor concert venue, recreational facilities and a hotel featuring an indoor waterpark. Pinnacle developer Steve Johnson of Johnson Commercial Development first outlined plans for that development (without the casino) in the Feb. 2019 issue of The Business Journal.
“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 EBCI is nationally known for operating the Harrah’s Cherokee Resort Hotel and Casino in Cherokee, NC. That casino includes more than 1,100 rooms with an additional 750 rooms planned for that location. Harrah’s is a brand under the Caesar’s umbrella.
The casino in Washington County, Va., is planned to be adjacent to the existing Pinnacle retail complex on the Tennessee side of the border. “The existing critical mass of retail, dining, and I-81 access and visibility, bracketed by two federal interchanges and 350 acres of peripheral development opportunity make the Pinnacle the ideal site for the casino,” Johnson said. “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 location of the casino will be within the beloved ancestral home of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians,” said Sneed. “That is why this project has a special place in my heart and in the heart of our people. In addition to the casino and luxury hotel, the development will include a 15,000-seat outdoor concert venue, additional recreational facilities as well as a large hotel featuring an indoor waterpark. Negotiations are underway to finalize those plans.
“Our casino will be a powerful anchor for much needed economic development for Washington County, Bristol, and the region,” said Sneed. “We look forward to working with community leaders to assure shared success for us all.”
The Pinnacle site is less than a mile from a proposed Hard Rock Resort and Casino inside the Bristol, Va., city limits. The Virginia General Assembly is likely to take up the legalization of casinos in the Commonwealth in the 2020 legislative session and has already released a report including the proposed Bristol Casino. It remains a topic of speculation as to how Richmond will react to the Pinnacle proposal.