The Norfolk casino resort proposal from the state’s Pamunkey Indian Tribe is moving forward after the Native American group signed land and gaming agreements with the city council.
The land agreement allows the tribe to purchase 13.4 acres of vacant property on the east of Harbor Park for $750,000 per acre. That puts the total land price at a little more than $10 million.
The gaming agreement requires the casino to be a commercial operation that pays taxes on gaming, lodging, food and beverage, and other sales. The resort will also be required to pay property taxes, as well as admission taxes.
“I am pleased to announce that we have reached mutually agreeable terms with the Pamunkey Indian Tribe to pursue a resort project that will conform and comply with commercial gaming legislation being considered in Virginia,” Norfolk City Manager Dr. Larry ‘Chip’ Filer said in a statement.
The Pamunkey’s reservation is located roughly 25 miles east of Richmond in West Point on the Pamunkey River.
The Pamunkey Indian Tribe has partnered with Tennessee businessman Jon Yarbrough, who made his fortune through his company, Video Gaming Technologies (VGT). The gaming manufacturer was acquired by Aristocrat Leisure for nearly $1.3 billion in October of 2014.
Yarbrough says he’s worked with roughly 35 tribes and their casinos across the United States. Forbes estimates his net worth at $2.2 billion.
I have worked with countless tribes and I know what it takes for a project like this to be successful,” Yarbrough told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “I am confident that with the Pamunkey tribe’s strategic approach, resolve and sense of community, coupled with our financial strength, they can bring about a number of projects of which the tribe and the Commonwealth can be proud.”
The Norfolk casino will be the tribe’s first foray into gaming. While initial proposals called for the project to total $700 million, the scope of the development has been scaled back – $200 million is now a likelier investment.
Before the casino can open, the Virginia General Assembly has to pass commercial gambling regulations. If they do, local voters still need to sign-off on allowing a casino in their hometown through a referendum.
The state passed a bill last year to study the impact casinos would have on areas that meet a host of qualifying criteria. Five cities meet the requirements: Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth, Richmond, and Norfolk.
If the Norfolk casino resort is licensed by the state, the tribal partnership will be on the hook to cover all costs associated with transportation infrastructure, as well as flood mitigation, offsite utility improvements, “and any other infrastructure improvements directly necessary.”
The tribe will additionally pay for construction of the Elizabeth River Trail to travel around the resort.
Taxes on slot machine and table games will be determined by the state. That includes the amount of tax money that is allocated to remain in Norfolk.