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Airport Authority won't write casino project support letter

Hank Hayes • Jan 7, 2019 at 8:30 PM

KINGSPORT – The Tri-Cities Airport Authority passed Monday on writing a support letter regarding the proposed casino project at the former Bristol Mall in Bristol, Virginia.

Bristol Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Beth Rhinehart asked the Airport Authority for the letter, which would have supported Virginia legislation allowing a local option vote on the issue.

Airport Authority Chairman Jon Smith noted the Airport Authority should support its constituencies.

“(But) we do not want to get involved in a political discussion,” Smith told commissioners. “It’s a slippery slope.”

“I would have serious concerns about it,” Commissioner J. Parker Smith of Kingsport said of the support letter.

In the request made to the Airport Authority, Rhinehart estimated the casino project would generate four million annual visitors, with 80 percent of those visitors coming from out of state, and more commercial flights.

“As a person who does numbers for a living, I can’t confirm these numbers,” Smith pointed out.

Smith also stressed that when gambling came to Gulfport, Mississippi, outside investors got a “whole lot of money,” the jobs created were service jobs and the community was torn apart.

“They still didn’t get new roads,” Smith said of Gulfport.

Dan Marciano, who represents Bristol, Virginia, on the Airport Authority, was the lone vote against the decision not to send the letter.

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