Norfolk Casino Land Purchase Delayed by Pamunkey Indian Tribe

Posted on: November 1, 2023, 01:00h. 

Last updated on: November 1, 2023, 01:00h.

The Pamunkey Indian Tribe in Virginia remains committed to building a top-notch casino in Norfolk on the Elizabeth River. However, the tribe may require additional time before paying the City of Norfolk the $10 million necessary to acquire the 13 acres of land for the gaming resort.

Pamunkey Indian Tribe Norfolk casino Jon Yarbrough
The Pamunkey Indian Tribe says it remains steadfast in its commitment to bringing Norfolk a premier casino resort. The tribe is working with billionaire Jon Yarbrough to bring the casino vision to reality. (Image: City of Norfolk)

The Pamunkey Indian Tribe was selected as the preferred casino developer by Norfolk city officials in 2020.

Despite being a small Indian community with less than 100 members living on its sovereign land near West Point along the Pamunkey River and lacking gaming experience, the city chose Pamunkeys for its casino venture.

To address financial concerns, the Pamunkeys partnered with billionaire Jon Yarbrough, who earned his fortune manufacturing games for tribal gaming. With the financial support of Yarbrough’s Golden Eagle Consulting and Yarbrough Capital, the tribe proposed a $500 million casino to Norfolk voters. The local electorate approved the plan with nearly 68% support in the November 2020 election.

Extension Granted for Land Purchase Deadline

Before presenting their casino plan called HeadWaters Resort & Casino to Norfolk voters, the Pamunkey Indian Tribe and Yarbrough agreed with the city government to purchase the vacant parking lots next to Harbor Park baseball stadium for $10 million. Over three years later, the tribe and Yarbrough have yet to acquire the land.

The initial plan was to open a temporary casino at Harbor Park, but it was later discovered that Virginia’s gaming law only permitted temporary casinos to operate at the same location as the permanent casino. As a result, the tribe and Yarbrough proposed a temporary casino on the 13-acre site while construction of the permanent casino began. However, this plan was later scrapped in favor of a two-phase development approach, with the casino being built first and the hotel and resort following.

Norfolk officials opposed this idea and insisted that the tribe and Yarbrough adhere to the original plan of constructing the entire complex at once. As a result, the tribe has announced in a press release that it has exercised its final option to extend the land purchase deadline to January 2025 by paying $10 million.

Site Plan Submission

Jay Smith, spokesperson for the HeadWaters project, informed that progress is being made towards realizing the Norfolk casino. Smith stated that the Pamunkey Indian Tribe submitted its preliminary site plan to the City of Norfolk on Oct. 20 after several productive meetings with city and casino officials.

Our team has been meeting routinely with city staff to review the project plans and discuss the development timeline,” said Robert Gray, Pamunkey chief. “We want to get this project up and running as soon as possible to start generating revenue for our Tribe, for the other recognized Virginia tribes that will benefit from this project, and for the City of Norfolk, its citizens, and the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Smith explained that the preliminary site submission brings the project closer to final approval and land acquisition.

“The Tribe plans to file an application for final site plan approval and an application for a Development Certificate prior to Dec. 11, 2023, which will enable the applications to be considered by the Norfolk Architectural Review Board in January 2024 and considered by the Planning Commission in late January 2024, followed by the City Council hearing the applications in February 2024,” detailed Smith.

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