There’s a lot going on in the Tri-Cities at the moment. Bristol just launched its temporary casino, and Kingsport is preparing to start its week of Fun Fest events. Below are a few bits of business and event news that will hopefully offer a little fun.
• According to the American Automobile Association, the Tennessee gas price average (as of Monday) was $ 4.28, down 33 cents from last Friday’s state average. Kingsport and Bristol’s Monday average was $ 4.25, down 19 cents from last week. A year ago, the average was around $ 2.85.
• According to the Northeast Tennessee Association of Realtors, nationwide analysis (that included Sullivan and Washington counties) found that single-family homes and condos were less affordable in 547 (97%) of the 575 counties in the study. During the second quarter, the affordability formula also shows an average worker in Washington County cannot qualify to buy a median-priced home. Sullivan County’s affordability index has also declined for 15 straight quarters, according to Attom Data Solutions.
• Kingsport will hold its annual pre-Fun Fest event, the Trash Barrel Paint-In Tuesday from 9 am to 2 pm at Allandale Mansion. For more information, go to https://funfest.net/events/trash-barrel-paint-in/.
• Fun Fest will return in Kingsport July 15 – 23. For a full list of events, go to funfest.net.
Notes from the field
I’ve heard my editor ask this question many times since I’ve been at the Times News – “What’s the talk of the town?”
The resounding answer at the moment is the Bristol Casino.
As you might have read, the Times News sent me with $ 100 to gamble at the new casino for a first-person story about my experience. You can read more about that in Sunday’s paper or online.
I kept thinking while I was there, “I can’t be the only one who knows virtually nothing about casinos, right?” If you read my column, you know I can’t really offer you a list of ways to win at the casino. I am still figuring out and learning a lot about slots and table games. But I have put together a list of my main takeaways from the Bristol Casino.
• As I mentioned in Sunday’s column, it makes for a more enjoyable experience when you expect entertainment and fun over earnings. You know the saying, “the house always wins?” I’m a believer in that statement. The odds are pretty stacked against you. Apparently, slots have some of the worst odds for players. You have a better chance at table games, according to most everything I’ve read. However, Saturday’s games had a $ 25 minimum. I felt that was a bit too steep, so I stuck to the slots.
• The advice to stick to your bankroll or the amount you’re willing to spend checks out. It’s all too easy to keep trying your luck on a slot machine you like and that you’ve won even the slightest amount of money on. Stick to the amount you’re willing to spend and don’t budge.
• Once you’ve hit an amount you’re happy with, CASH OUT. The only point in my casino experience that I earned some money left me wanting to see if I could increase it. That’s when my money quickly started dwindling. Quit while you’re ahead.
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• Be willing to learn. One of the most enjoyable parts of my Saturday experience was learning how the slot machines work. I quickly learned it may be a $ 1 minimum bet machine, but you have to bet a certain amount on many of these machines to even be eligible for certain jackpots. Each machine is a little different, but some are set up in a way that is more transparent than others. One of the machines I liked showed you how many plays you had left and what your bet was set at (which is common) along with how much money you were at, including the amount you put in and the amount you’ve won, in one total.
• It’s all about hooking you in. The temperature, the drinks, the bright and intriguing slot machines that make the room feel like an arcade – it’s all designed to please people and keep you there spending money.
• Sign up for a unity card. I can’t say if it’s truly beneficial just yet (I’ve only earned just over 100 points, and I’m not sure how much you need to start receiving offers), but if you plan to go to the Bristol Casino, or any other Hard Rock casino, it’s probably worth considering. It takes very little time to sign up at the machines outside the casino, and eventually you can earn coupons and other offers. By the end of the year, casino officials said they expect to have all Hard Rock locations connected through the unity card. I also look for them to add the option of loading the card with money. Currently, that’s not an option at the Bristol Casino.
Below are a few bits of information (with some general thoughts) about the overall facility:
• The largest portion of the casino floor is the smoking area. There is a small room that is a non-smoking section. It’s a bit limited on what it offers, but if you’re sensitive to smoke, it’s where you’ll want to be.
• The slot machines take cash. You don’t have to convert your money into tokens before playing. If you insert cash, play on a machine and want to move on before you’re out of plays and money, you can hit the “cash out” button and the machine will spit out a voucher with your remaining amount of money. You can then insert that into other machines and keep playing or you can go to the cashier section and exchange your voucher for cash.
• There are basically two restaurants and a bar onsite. One is Mr. Lucky’s that offers American food with a touch of Appalachian flavor. You’ll find things like steak, ribs, soup beans and cornbread and a signature burger there. There’s also Brick’d that offers pizza and salads. It’s a walk-up-and-order restaurant with a dining area. Then there’s the Bristol Bar that is located adjacent to the sportsbook area.
• The outside still looks mostly like a mall. The inside, however, does not. It feels as if you’re no longer in the old Bristol Mall and you’re somewhere else entirely. The building has a long way to go, but it’s pretty snazzy, especially for a temporary facility.
• Parking can be tough. I’ve heard Friday night was pretty packed with some patrons parking in the grass near Wendy’s next door. However, I had a pretty easy time finding a spot midday on Saturday. (Perhaps that’s where I used up all my luck).
As I drove back home following the media tour on Friday and my casino adventure on Saturday, I couldn’t help but think of all the ways Bristol was going to transform following the launch of the casino, specifically the final project set for completion in the summer of 2024.
Will we see an influx of revenue and business? Or will we see an increase in crime, drugs and other issues? My bet is we’ll see a bit of both.
But then again, my bets haven’t been worth much lately.
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