Pamunkey Tribe Eyes Norfolk Waterfront for Virginia’s First Casino

No casinos exist in Virginia, but the Pamunkey Indian tribe intends to build one. Pictured: Artist rendering of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe’s proposed casino along the Norfolk waterfront in Virginia (Pamunkey Indian Tribe)

The Pamunkey Indian Tribe aspires to open Virginia’s first casino. The tribe is deep in negotiations with officials in Norfolk, the state’s second-largest city.

The Pamunkey—Virginia’s first tribe to receive federal recognition, in 2015—announced plans last year to build a $700 million resort and casino on its ancestral lands. Pamunkey Indian Tribe spokesman Jay Smith told Richmond Free Press that the tribe is eyeing 20 acres along the Elizabeth River. The land is nestled between Harbor Park and the Norfolk Tides baseball stadium, and conveniently near an Amtrak station by Norfolk’s downtown area.

Smith anticipates the resort will create thousands of jobs and have an economic impact of more than $1 billion annually.  

Beyond a gaming floor, offering slot machines as well as table games like poker and blackjack, the resort will include a large hotel and prospectively an entertainment venue with a variety of restaurants and a luxury spa.

Even if the City of Norfolk agrees to sell the land for the purposes of a casino, the project requires National Indian Gaming Commission and federal approval—the latter of which could take several years to obtain.

While the majority of tribes in Virginia lost their lands in the 1700s, the Pamunkey retained about 1,200 acres outside of Richmond. The tribe historically inhabited Norfolk, near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, as well.  

“Just as this area played an important role in the tribe’s past, I believe that Norfolk will play an even more important role in the Pamunkey Tribe’s future,” Pamunkey Chief Robert Gray said in a statement that.  

While in 2018, the Department of Interior granted federal recognition to six other Virginia tribes—who are now eligible for federal assistance in education, healthcare and housing—terms prohibit those six tribes from conducting any gaming activities.






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